Hello Everyone …

Here’s a brief update on our upcoming trip — now only four months away.

Our group is now complete. The mix of people who will be joining us is extraordinary. It seems that each was handpicked by some intelligence (considerably greater than we) to add a specific element/frequency to this unprecedented experience.

I feel like a child about to embark on his very, very first visit to Disneyland. How many more sleeps before we can go, mommy?

There is much continuing to unfold as the circumstances gripping our planet change daily. Transitions of this magnitude are seldom neat. They are however, in perfect alignment with what eventually emerges. I have been told to have implicit faith in the Wisdom of the Universe, secure in the knowledge that it is far more intelligent than the sum of its parts.

We will continue the exploration of these concepts during our time together. You will be afforded the opportunity of freely exploring the realms beyond the illusion in which all previous perspectives (points from which we were compelled to view) dissolve. There is much we will discover together in a field that can be created only by the combined willingness of the participants.

What an adventure!

We recently received an email from Carol Cumes, our hostess and the proprietress of Willka T’ika. As you already know, all of the profits from both the Peru and Bolivia trip will be donated on behalf of our entire group to the Children’s Fund. It’s heartwarming to know that we are making a direct difference, rather than supporting the infrastructure of institutions.

In love and light,
Arianne & Jean-Claude


May 11, 2010

Dear Friends,

When Benito’s school was completed in December 2009, I sent letters to the education department in Ocangate reminding them that this little Qero community in the clouds had done everything possible to build and furnish a school and it was time for them to provide a teacher.  The reply was that they had no money. I sent out a newsletter with photos of Benito carrying desks across a nearly 5000 meter pass to his village. Gaby Meneses accompanied the desks and reported back on her challenging hike to the highest Andean school imaginable.

My personal plea for help to sponsor a teacher’s salary for the 38 registered school children brought wonderful responses from many Willka T’ika friends who offered to contribute both small and larger donations of money.  We are grateful to you all. Soon after, I heard from Kate Majzoub, a student at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She had met Fredy, a cousin to Benito, worked with him, and acquired a donation to support two teachers. This was wonderful news. She had received money to pay two salaries for this year and Fredy would take care of finding the second teacher. Benito confirmed that the school had begun in April with two teachers.

Last week when all the Willka T’ika Quechua-speaking staff were off work for the weekend, Benito called me from Acongate. He chatted away in Quechua. When face to face, we can understand each other. However on the phone, chatted away in Quechua. When face to face, we can understand each other.  However on the phone, all I could manage to tell him was it was fine for him to come to his “vacation cabin” here at Willka T’ika. The next sunny afternoon, in walked Benito wearing all the layers of clothing donated to him by the Winnipeg group two weeks before, plus his two hats. His tired-looking face had its usual big smile and he told me he had just walked through snow and ultra freezing rain. Since the usual kitchen staff were not there to offer him a hot meal, I offered him a bowl of my own quinoa, mushroom and asparagus concoction. I knew he would gratefully eat anything he was given. To make further conversation I asked him if he knew what mushrooms and asparagus were. I understood Benito telling me that at certain times of the year, mushrooms grow on Qero land. Neither Benito nor any of the Quechua staff knew anything about the strange looking asparagus growing in my gardens. Secretly I was quite pleased that I could continue to harvest them directly from the gardens and enjoy them as my personal treat.

After Benito rested a night, the Quechua staff returned. Now I could ask Benito what brought him down from Cochomocca a month ahead of schedule. He said he had to escort the new profesora down to her nearby home to enjoy a week with her family. My mouth opened as I heard “profesora”. I could not imagine any young female teacher surviving alone up at that school. Benito explained that it was really, really challenging for her, but she was “getting-used-to-it.” I immediately asked where she was sleeping and he said, “Oh with my family in our house.” Having recently seen the photographs taken by Gaby, who managed to get in and out of there before the freezing snow and rains caused great flood damage in the high mountains, I could not imagine any female teacher adapting to those living conditions.

I asked Benito to please bring the teacher to meet me. I needed to know what might make her life easier in Cochamocca. When Benito returned with 26 year-old Veronica I smiled and said to him, “Apu Veronica?” and he laughed and said “Warmi Veronica.”

Oozing personality, Veronica laughed and said she had no idea it would be so challenging up there.  She barely managed to get up the pass, and she nearly froze to death. She spoke respectfully of Benito’s warm hospitality and said that he and his wife and family were very kind and helpful to her. They offered her thick clothing we recently sent up there, and welcomed her into their one-roomed home. Veronica said she was having problems with the food. She could not eat potatoes all the time and the “three-month-old meat” they ate occasionally did not appeal to her.

I asked Veronica how she liked teaching there and whether she planned to stay. Her vibrant face and upbeat laughter delighted me as she enthusiastically related how wonderful it was to work with the little Qero children who were filled with warmth, love and a sincere desire to learn. Veronica was ready to return and planned to return with her own food supplies, canned milk, chocolate, pasta and basic staples.

I had anticipated that any teacher working up there would need more than a salary.  Having worked closely with many isolated communities over the years, I knew that teachers need basic comforts; a furnished room to stay in, food they could relate to and a few survival items. She said that the community planned for her to return home for a week, every three weeks. Benito and three other men would take turns to escort her safely home. I met her husband and two and half year old toddler who she would leave behind for three weeks every month.

Veronica was ecstatic when I told her that thanks to the donations received by our WTCF, there was money available to help her soften some of her hardships at Cochamocco. I gave her the good news that she could return right away with a new bed, mattress, blankets, pillow, furniture, lantern, candles and food, and move into a small hut made from stones and straw that Benito had built for her. In addition we would send fresh fruit and vegetables and Benito would make sure it was delivered to her new doorstep!

What impressed me most about Veronica was her understanding of the needs and value of education for the children. With great enthusiasm she told me about the twenty younger children in her classroom and how quickly she was able to teach them to read and write. Fredy would focus on teaching the older children computer skills and other talents he might have. She said that without having enough materials like clay, which was important for children to develop finger muscles, she had been taking them onto the grass to twirl the strands around. Then she laughed again and said even though she did not have clay, in the endless supply of mud around the school, the children could make mud figures instead! I promised to send her more supplies.

Mary Kate, a recent guest at Willka T’Ika, had read our website and arrived with a bag filled with a selection of books and items from her second grade school in the USA. It was simply perfect timing to be able to hand the books directly to Veronica to take back with her for the children.

The WTCF is supporting four schools in isolated Andean communities.  Early this year, crops of subsistent farmers were washed away by the excessive rains. Potato crops got the rancha, a disease brought on by too much rain. Numerous animals important for food or wool production died.

Many areas of help are needed. One of the greatest needs we face this year is to find money for food to supplement a meager potato diet. During the winter months beginning in the Andes in May, we are hoping to send high protein foods such as legumes and quinoa and tarwi, to all four schools, plus fresh vegetables and fruits at least a few times a week. If the 600 children are well fed, they will stay healthy. They will have energy to walk to school and will be able to sit in the classrooms and focus on their studies.

To read more about how you can help, please go to http://www.chakragardens.com/childrens-fund

Carol Cumes
Willka T’ika Children’s Fund