Peru and I

Peru is a country with lots of history, datingback 1000’s of years ago.  Most people know about the Inca and Machu Picchu. However, there are many cultures that predate the Inca. Like the Wari or Huari that was near Ayacucho, and the Tiwanaku based near Lake Titicaca (the real name Titi Khar’ka). I visited and brought school supplies to the Titi Khar’ka area on a previous trip to Bolivia. The Quechua are indigenous peoples of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and some in Brazil.  These peoples and their cultures were devastated  by Europeans with more powerful weapons and foreign diseases. Killing millions, taking their land, enslaving them, and forcing new religions on them.  New Mexico, where I grew up, has its own version of this struggle, when the Spanish arrived and brought centuries of cultural suppression.

I arrived in Cusco in late March of 2022 all by myself. It was a solo trip to get my head and spirit back in order.  I arrived with an extra bag full of school supplies, soccer balls, stuffed animals and a couple dolls. My guide Fernando was there waiting for me and understood that part of the trip was designated to go to villages that needed help with such supplies.  He was surprised and excited that this was such a big deal to me.  He has been a guide for over 25 years, working with all the popular travel companies. He never had someone be so adamant about what I wanted to do.  This made him feel so happy.  He knew and explained to me the real need for these supplies all over Peru.  This was my first time in Peru and I only had 9 days.  He also explained I would miss some things, but I did not care. Some things are bigger than just site-seeing. 

A couple days in, my guide Fernando took me to the village of Patacancha Ollantaytambo in the sacred valley to donate some of the supplies I brought with me.  He had mentioned that he had contacted the village ahead of my arrival to let them know what was happening. I was super pumped to go.  It was a drizzle day when we arrived at the village. We stopped the car by a soccer field that was fenced in. There were a couple boys on the field pretending to play soccer, but with no ball.  This area was where people were supposed to meet us. 

I got out of the car and the first thing I did was grabbed one of the balls from my bag and pumped it up. I motioned to the boys and kicked the ball to them. They right away smiled and started to play around with it. As I did this, I saw a young girl who I knew I just wanted to give her something. She seemed to be by herself except for the chicken next to her. My daughters always give me some of their favorite stuffed animals to give to kids. They say, “I want you to give this to a kid that does not have any toys”.  I knew I had to give her one of the girl’s favorites. I handed her a stuffed pink unicorn, and she got the biggest smile and started hugging it so hard.  Made me tear up a bit. I then grabbed my phone to take a picture with her. I wanted to give her more, but my guide warned me that there were many more kids coming. 

After a couple minutes, we did not see many people coming and he suggested we take a walk around to see some local homes and people, and then come back in an hour. As we left the girl, she wanted to say goodbye and I took a video. One of my favorites in the world. My wife and girls still talk about it.  We headed out for an hour.

When we arrived back to the car, there were kids and parents waiting for us. As I walked up to the trunk of the car, some kids faces smiled and others just seemed to be wondering what I brought. We had to make the kids and parents move back so I could get things out. Fernando said not to show everything I brought, so I enlisted the drivers help to get things out.  I tried to make sure to give each kid a ruler, pencils, a sharpener, crayons, paper and an eraser. All these supplies I had bought myself on Amazon in bulk. I had bought the soccer balls, pumps and really small stuffed animals as well on Amazon.  I did bring some other items that came from my own kids, but not enough for every kid.  

While trying to hand out many of the items I had, parents and kids kept asking for more.  They wanted more for their other kids or siblings that were not there. Many parents wanted things for their babies. More families kept showing up too once they knew what was going on. I tried to do my best, but started to feel guilty that I could not give more.  I then handed out some back packs given to me by my kids and friends’ kids.  Only the older kids got them. I kept pumping up and handing out more soccer balls. I gave my pump away to the village because they did not have one. It was not a nice pump. Next time I told myself to have way more pumps and better ones. 

My guide was listening to them during the giving and telling me what they were saying the whole time.  They were asking why some kids got certain things and others not.  He explained to them that I only had a couple of items in certain things. Again, I felt bad, but knew I was doing my best. At the end I started to hand out dolls to the younger kids or kids who did not get anything yet because they had just showed up. It was another awesome experience of giving, but wishing I could do more.  I felt  guilty for not handing out more and saving things for another village I knew I was visiting later in the trip. At the end we took a couple pictures. Fernando later telling me that everyone was super happy and how happy he was to see what I was doing. What he told me made me feel not as guilty for not having more.

As we drove away, I could see the kids kicking around the soccer balls and kids playing with their things. I sawone of the girls who showed up a little late and had not got anything yet. I pulled out a doll from my girls’ favorites and gave it to her. She was so happy that she did not stop smiling the rest of the time I was there. You can see her in one of the pictures in the front on the left. She is holding the Anna doll from Frozen.

We would not be to the next school and village till a couple days before I left. In my mind I wanted to keep giving. So, if I saw a kid that I felt needed some love, I would grab something and give it to them. Gesturing to the parents what I intended if Fernando was not around to ask them. I could speak a tiny bit of Quechua, but not enough to do many things. 

By the time I made it to the village I was going to give the last of the school supplies too, I got worried I did not have enough for all the kids.  I was thinking it would be like the first village. I had to come up with a game plan. That plan was to give all supplies to school and not individuals. We drove for a long time to make it to where the taxi car we rented would drop us off.  Once he dropped us off, he headed back. This is where we had to start the hike to the village.  The village was on a big cliffside. The name of the village was Viacha in Pisaq, also in the sacred valley. Fernando said he knew of the school there, but had never been inside.  He said, if he did come up this way, it was for a trail that skirted the village. As we walked through the village, I started to realize how small the place was. There were not many houses and the school I could see was very small. As we reached the school, we could hear some voices talking. Fernando yelled over the wall to get someone’s attention. A woman came out and they started to talk. 

After a minute or so, he told me where the front entrance was and that we were welcome to come in.  Opening the door into the school, it opened to several small building on three sides of a rectangle area. There was a wall all the way around and in the middle was a very small soccer field. The playing area was rough with big rocks here and there. School was in session and the kids came out to meet us. There were not many kids, and some kids were at home helping work on their parents’ land. Only a couple were not there. Fernando explained what I wanted to do to the lady teacher, who had told us how to get in. She started to get happy and emotional. Another teacher came out and he was happy to hear what I was going to do too. I started off with the school supplies. The lady teacher wanted me to just give them to her. They did not have many supplies and the kids had to share erasers, pencils and other school things. So, she wanted to make sure they lasted.

I then pulled out the last three soccer balls I had. I had brought ten flat soccer balls in all. I was told they had no soccer balls for a very long time. I pumped up the balls and was asked if I could leave the pump. Again, they did not have a pump. I was then asked if I wanted to play a game with them. We played around a little bit before we started the actual game.  The video of us playing is right before we started playing the actual game.  The male teacher was pretty darn good, and a couple of the kids had some skills. I wish I could have given them some quick lessons too.  Hopefully, there will be a time in the future. When the game ended the teachers wanted to take pictures of me with the kids. Fernando took the pictures for us. Before we left, I gave everyone a high five and a huge smile. Fernando and I left to hike back down to the town where we were staying.  Fernando, during the hike, told me the village had never had anything like that.  That made my day and still does when I think about it.  

Throughout the trip we interacted with many Quechua people, all the time having an overwhelming feeling of a strong connection to these people.  A very positive connection. This was not the first time I had this feeling. Six months previous I had visited Bolivia with my dad. It was there in several areas that I had the same feelings. I had also brought a big bag of supplies there too.  Giving to several villages. Only I did not take but one picture.  These feelings in Bolivia were so strong.And now I had thesame feeling and energy in Peru on a bigger level, so I knew this is where I had to start my bigger giving journey. 

There are so many areas that need these types of supplies. Even with today’s technology and delivery systems, there are many kids, villages, towns that have no access to them. No internet, computers, UPS or other means to order or get them.  Even trying to buy them and sending them to my contacts is so expensive that it costs sometimes almost 1000 dollars for one big box.  I can bring way more supplies with betterfinancial efficiency.