By Stacy Christensen, HWF Board Member and Expedition Team Leader
The mountains called me back to Q’eros, and once again my heart prepared to trek the well-worn path of service in the remote Q’ero regions of Peru. The love I’ve developed for this challenging service-based travel is grounded in the excitement I feel while watching the Q’ero children explore educational experiences for the first time.
As I prepare for these arduous journeys, I realize that few people have walked in my shoes exploring this rich culture of weavers and farmers. The opportunity to be of service and make someone’s life better — even in small ways — coupled with working with the children, draws me back to Q’eros to do whatever I can. I feel blessed to have this opportunity.
This teen girl has grown fond of Stacy over the years. Stacy has made the arduous trek many times to bring educational equipment to the youth, build partnerships with each community, and raise awareness and funds for the many projects.
A Trusted Reputation
Every year Q’ero elders and community leaders tell us that no one comes to help them except for Heart Walk Foundation. Thanks to our volunteers and supporters, we do return year after year.
The villagers invite Heart Walk Foundation volunteers into their lives because we’ve established a reputation of living up to our commitments. We have the opportunity to interact with the mountain people on an intimate basis because we’ve established a reputation of working in partnership with them.
Gilberto, former President of Hapu Q’ero region, visits with Stacy during a break in an outdoor community meeting. Meetings can last many hours — even all day!
Pressures from a Modern World
These small mountain communities are bound together by ancient traditions that connect them to the land. The encroachment of the modern world and changes of climate definitely challenge the rich way of life in Q’eros. Increasingly severe winter storms in the last decade are causing annual deaths of children and livestock. Our 2018 expedition team experienced an extreme storm and were acutely aware of the hardships and dangers.
Always expressing their deeply felt gratitude, the villagers tell us that our efforts allow them live a little easier in their difficult conditions. Our work affords them dignity and hope to stay in their mountain communities. Outside of the Q’ero territories, the opportunities for the Q’ero people can be grim. A forgotten people for centuries, the Q’ero are now considered a cultural treasure by their government, yet they still lack support for infrastructure and basic human services.
Education to Help Cultural Survival
The villagers do not want to lose their cultural heritage, but many hardships make it exhausting to endure life in the mountains. The education of the children gives them capacity to advocate for their communities and manage more effectively in a world that requires literacy. The parents teach their children farming, weaving, and traditional spiritual and cultural rituals, but they also want their children to learn to read and write, opportunities they never had for themselves. And the children are so hungry to learn!
Teachers and students are excited by the educational materials we bring, thanks to the generosity of our donors. When we delivered large picture books this year, the children’s eyes lit up with delight. Special thanks to Professor Leo Ceballos, PhD, at Dixie State University for gifting these huge and stunning books for the youth of Q’eros.
We have funded the construction of twenty classrooms and many teacher salaries. We are partnering with Peru’s Ministry of Education, who will eventually assume all school expenses.
The Mountain Calls Me Back Once Again
The children are such eager learners! Their thirst for education inspires me to gear up for the challenging journey once again. So the process of bringing together another service team begins anew, because the mountain is calling me once again.