Our Story & Mission
On a trip to Cusco, Peru in 2003, Tim and Penelope Eicher learned that the Hapu Q’ero mountain tribe was literally starving. Too much rain had rotted their potato crops – the only food they could grow in their highland homelands. Over 400 villagers were forced to eat their emergency supply of seed potatoes, leaving nothing to plant the coming year, and nothing more to eat.
“We can find help. Americans are very generous. There is no need for people to starve,” was the Eichers’ instant response.
The Journey from the Beginning
That moment in 2003 fueled the inspiration that became Heart Walk Foundation. Since then, hundreds of caring people have joined the Eichers in their ‘walk’ to build a foundation of food security for many of the tribal communities in the Andean highlands. Each year they have returned to the Q’ero people to build schools, greenhouses, trout aquaculture, and collaborative relationships for the development of life that sustains the land, culture, and dignity of the Q’ero people.
Early Years: 2004-2009
During their first annual treks into to the Hapu Q’ero villages, the Eichers and other volunteers focused on building personal relationships and seeking to understand Q’ero socio-economic conditions, history, and culture. They sat outdoors in long meetings with the entire community in the shadow of immense sacred mountains (Apus).
Together with the villagers, they explored ways in which Heart Walk Foundation could help the Q’ero people to attain food security and better health, while keeping their cultural identity and dignity. Results of those discussions led to raising funds to assist every family with basic farming implements, leather work gloves, soap, salt, cooking oil and other necessities. They also purchased thousands of pounds of food staples for widows and elderly too frail to farm, funded training for community leaders, and started the first trout farming projects.
Recent Successes: 2010 to 2015
Our collaborative process with the Q’ero communities includes challenges as well as many successes. Our partnership during the period since 2010 resulted in eight sturdy barns constructed to protect alpacas from severe winters, replacing 40 alpacas lost to harsh weather conditions, and adding 8 special breeding alpacas to improve the herd.
To support cultural preservation and sustainable economic development, every year Heart Walk Foundation purchased more than $2,500.00 worth of textiles from village weavers at fair trade value. All proceeds support HWF’s Q’ero community projects. In addition, over 30 oral history interviews were recorded on film to develop curriculum for village schools.