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Geddes: A clear vision for Peru

In an age where politicians talk big but do little, Dr. Charles Mango provides a refreshing twist. He is not a politician, just a man who wants to make a difference by conserving the Amazon.

Mango is an ophthalmologist who has worked for Eye Consultants of Syracuse for more than 30 years and is his spare time, instead of golfing or watching football, Mango tends to more than 500,000 acres of protected land he purchased in Peru. The area includes a resort, a Cornell research laboratory, a stretch of the Yarapa River - a tributary of the Amazon River - and three villages.

"I sound like a crusader, but I'm really not," Mango said. "This is something that I did on my own and got passionate about. I love doing this, and I love the people down there. I haven't made a dime doing this, but I don't care. It's kind of funny, all of the money I spent down there it's been a one-way street."

Mango's involvement in the region began in 1995, when his son was a junior in college at Cornell. The two took an ecology-based vacation to Costa Rica and the amazon area, where they met Victor Serrubio, who was a guide to the area during their trip.

"We became friendly and he confided in me about his eye problems," Mango said. "We brought him to the United States after the trip and I performed eye surgery on him. Everything was new to him, he had never been on a plane before, had never seen laser scanners at the checkout isle of a grocery store, never seen machines that dispense coffee. Everything was just a completely new experience to him."

Serrubio had started a family in Peru, having a child with his wife that he named after Mango's wife, Barbara, and a second child that he named Charlie, after Mango. Serrubio made a second trip to the U.S. a year later, and the two discussed starting a lodge for tourists.

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