by Steve Stirling
Peru Day 5 - Pomacanchi district San Juan Community Project
This project is located in a very remote area about 4.5 hours drive from Cusco City. The drive to the project was very scenic but very bumpy as we traveled up a steep mountain on a narrow dirt road. San Juan is nestled in a valley surrounded by huge rock cliffs and mountains, and this community just received electricity in April of this year.
We visited with a number of families in the community. I had the privilege of being invited into the home of German Supple and his wife Balvina, who have one 7-year-old girl: Ruth Aracely Supple. Heifer International identified Balvina as a leader and invited her to a two-day leader's training at Heifer Cusco City. She was first hesitant in becoming a leader -- she thought leaders were lazy since they didn't do as much physical work as the workers.
Balvina has been transformed into an effective and warm leader. She invites people into her home to show them the healthy wood stove built from bricks they make from clay and straw. These stoves are much healthier -- smoke is carried outside the kitchen through a smoke stack -- and burn wood more efficiently. I had a very satisfying lunch of seven different varieties of potatoes and dried corn nuggets. Heifer also introduced Balvina to agroecology; she now raises bees to produce honey and pollen for health and grows many vegetables such as carrots, beets, cauliflower and numerous varieties of potatoes.
The Supple family was blessed this day because they were chosen by lottery to receive a young heifer as part of the Pass On the Gift (POG) ceremony. Their dream is for their daughter Ruth to go to college to become a professional ag person to help the community become even healthier. When I asked Ruth what her dream is, she said she wants to become a nurse -- a nice nurse so she can help children when they get sick.
We participated in an exciting POG - the third one for this community. There were about a dozen sheep, five heifers and hundreds of guinea pigs. While it may sound strange to westerners for anybody to dine on guinea pigs, these cute animals provide a good source of income. A 2-kilogram guinea pig sells for about $7, which represents a significant income when the monthly income for a family of five is $150.
This community is thankful to Heifer and the donors who make our work possible. "Heifer was the first [NGO] to help our community, and Heifer taught us passing on the gift of livestock and learning," Balvina told me with pride. "We now share what we have to help everyone in the community."
For my first trip to Peru I experienced hope and strong relationships fostered by Alfredo, his amazing staff, our partners and project participants who work very hard in a most difficult living environment to not only survive but to create a better future for their children. I thank God for our generous donors who invest in the lives of others to end hunger, poverty and care for the earth.
Steve Stirling, Heifer's executive VP of Marketing and Resource Development, is part of a contingent of Heifer staff who recently visited Peru. You can read this group's previous posts here.