Friday was an active day for us, as we had the first volunteer meeting at the restaurant, so we’d be able to meet more people that we’d be working with. It turns out that we’d be working with a large group of 18-year old Canadians, who happen to be from the same school that brought a group here two years go when Cade and I volunteered.
The meeting was a chance for Nate to start hearing more about the project of Aldea Yanapay, and feel the passion of Yuri and he explained in Spanish the foundations of the project. The name itself of the project is a deliberate combination of Spanish and Cetchuan words – “Aldea” in Spanish meaning small community, and “Yanapay” In Cetchuan meaning help. He outlined three primary issues facing the community of Cusco: 1) Machismo – where men have a feeling of superiority over women, which often leads to violence, 2) Alcoholism – which accelerates itself through the machismo, and 3) Education – the poor public school system, which ranks last in all Latin American countries. The program Yuri has created doesn’t rely on large government grants for support, instead relying on the cash flow from the restaurant and hostel to support the programs. He also enforces a strict policies against handing out gifts, money, or food to the kids, so that it doesn’t support the rampant begging you see on the streets (he cites that a 6-8 year old child can make $20-$40 per day working the Plaza). He’s created a safe place for the kids to come to escape the demons that lurk all around them in Cusco, and looks to reinforce respect for themselves and others in their community.
The two hour meeting ending with a feeling that the Canadians didn’t speak much Spanish, so Nate was likely to be elevated as one of the better Spanish speaking volunteers. We all (Nate and I, Yuri, and Victoria and Irasella from Spain) retired back to the house for lunch with Haydee, where we planned a big dinner party that night and talked about politics and troubles facing Peru. These discussions were likely equally eye-opening to Nate, as we discussed the increasing drug trafficking in Peru, and the difficulty of the government to make any significant impact on the most pressing social issues in Peru.
The night ended with a fun dinner party, where we all as the house guests helped to prepare a big meal for Yuri’s extended family and some of the long term volunteers. Nate and I were assigned nachos and guacamole, and the trip to the market to buy avocados and other fixings with the ladies from Spain was fun, and excited Nate and I. Victoria and Irasella made Spanish omlets, and Yuri and Jane brought a blueberry cheesecake. All was wonderful, and it was great to meet some really interesting people (although few spoke English). I particularly enjoyed meeting a young graduate student at Harvard’s Kennedy School who’s from Cusco, and also one of Yuri’s relatives who’s a sales rep for EMC in Lima.
A fun night, and good to meet some people. More to come.