Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Little Organization called Peru's Challenge

  Peru's Challenge ( is an organization founded by Australian Jane Gavel and Peruvian Selvy Ugaz. They were in their early 20s when they met and fell in love in Cusco.  At just 22 and 23 years of age, they had a vision of how they could help some of the poorer communities high in the hills above Cusco.
A rare moment - Jane and Selvy  sitting down together at Pumamarca
Their vision has resulted in an organization that has been very successful in working with several communities in the area.  They do not give handouts and they have some very strict rules when they "adopt" a community.  They will work with a community a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 6 (the community of Pumamarca where we've been working is just heading into it's 6th year and so everyone is in the process of preparing for the new reality of life without the support of Peru's Challenge).

The community decides (with the help of Peru's Challenge) what it needs and how the organization can help.  The community is then in charge of providing some portion (be it materials or labour) of the project with Peru's Challenge supplementing where it makes the most sense.  For example, when we arrived we were told that we would be helping to build a fourth greenhouse up at the school.  As the weeks wore on, however, the greenhouse site remained unchanged.   We soon learned that the community had been unable to make enough adobe bricks that they were meant to provide for the project.  Another meeting was held just last week and everyone decided that indeed a green house was very important and if they could quickly make enough adobe bricks, there may be time before the rainy season really kicks in to build the greenhouse (with the help of the volunteers).

In the picture below notice the site for the new greenhouse on the left and on the right, the most recent greenhouse that had no roof when we arrived. (it does now!!)
We were able to help put the roof back on one of
the greenhouses!

Many of the projects undertaken by Peru's Challenge focus on the schools and the children in the communities. Although this is a starting place, they realized early on that they must support the whole community in order  for the children to thrive.  In the community of Pumamarca, for example, every house now has water and electricity and there are several large greenhouses for blocks of families that not only enable them to provide food for their families but also support their ability to sell food and flowers in the local markets.  Peru's Challenge also employs a social worker who supports the families in their struggles against poverty, alchohol and domestic abuse.  They track the health of the kids and provide medication, vitamins and most recently had all the kids eyesite checked and provided glasses for those who needed them.  In addition, they have started a woman's group (Talleries) that has provided the women in the communities with skills, confidence and the ability to supplement their family income.

The women in the community of
Quilla Huata working on art and
crafts in their weekly Tallaries class.
The results of their work in Tallaries are on display at the
Pumamarca school site where volunteers and tour groups
come up to purchase some items and tour the school.
As you may surmise, I am incredibly impressed by this organization and both Jane and Selvy.  Those of you who know me well know that I am not one to idolize people and I rarely become "star-struck",....  I think I'm in love!  They are down-to-earth, kind, fun and incredibly dedicated individuals who, by the way, are also raising a lovely little boy Tomasito!  Amazing!!

A fellow volunteer and new friend of ours has 2 very detailed and well written postings on her blog if you're interested in more information about Peru's Challenge:

The grade 1/2 class, with the help of the director of the school, greeted us
with a song on our first visit to Pumamarca.


1 comment:

  1. Your writings and the story of these wonderful people have literally left me crying. It says a lot for stupid pride that could have gotten in the way of truly changing these peoples lives. I am so proud of you all for helping not only physically to make this world a little bit of a better place but also to bring awareness to the plight and success of others!