A report from Scott Fifer on GO’s recent trip to Peru with Adventure Yoga Retreats
The Quechuan children in Peru really steal your heart.
Okay, I probably say that about children in every country I visit, as well as the kids in the USA that we help too, but really, there is just something about the rosy-red cheeks and wide smiles that jump out at you from the sea of traditional brightly colored hand-woven clothes…. You can’t help but instantly connect with these children. The teenagers are often quite shy, especially the girls, and it takes some work to get them to open up, but the young ones are naturally outgoing and playful. But every child, no matter what the age, is truly appreciative to have visitors. Paru Paru, Pokes, Chumpe… these are remote little villages in the Andes well above 12,000 feet (hence the rosy red cheeks), and they don’t get a lot of visitors in these parts. So when we showed up at these schools with a dozen Americans on the GO Campaign/Adventure Yoga retreat, well, it was not your ordinary school day.
GO Campaign’s Local Hero in Peru is teacher Jessica. She’s the principal/teacher and at the moment her entire class is 6 students. They are a mix of grades 1-3, including a special needs boy who surely must be running for class president, or mayor, or something, judging by his handshaking and charisma. Jessica used to have 800 students at her last school, but she did such a great job enrolling the students and creating such a great learning environment (with support from GO Campaign) that the government gave her position to a political crony and shifted Jessica to a new, abandoned school. Jessica was sad to leave the 800 students she had come to love, and their families who trusted her so, but she is accepting the challenge of turning the abandoned school building into a thriving center for education. As word gets out that Jessica has been stationed in this remote school, children will start showing up. She won’t have just 6 students for long.
The terrific and diverse group of travelers who joined our 2015 retreat to Peru had so many memorable experiences on this trip, but I was particularly pleased that the visits to these schools were the highlight for many. And that’s saying a lot, given that other highlights include the luxurious Hiram Bingham train through the Sacred Valley, a traditional earth ceremony and coca leave readings from a shaman who had to walk down the mountain for 3 days to get to us, organic food beautifully plated in Peru’s incredible restaurants, optional yoga and hiking in picturesque settings and – of course – the wonder of Machu Picchu. As one member of our group kept noting, “Each day just keeps topping the day before!”
Peru is a special place and this trip offers a unique opportunity to not only see (and taste) the wonders Peru has to offer, but also to connect with the people in a way that is not easily done otherwise. Playing with the children, meeting the teachers and community leaders, doing yoga with the teenagers… it’s a glimpse into Peru that most tourists don’t get to experience.
Ted McDonald is already setting dates for our June 2016 return visit, so I encourage you all to start saving your pennies (or Peruvian soles) and sign up for next year’s trip. I’d love to introduce you to the wonders – and the children – of Peru.