As the owner of an alpaca farm in the United States, I knew about Quechua Benefit and Mike Safley’s efforts to build a home and school for the children of the poorest alpaca farmers in the highlands of Peru. A place called Casa Chapi. But Peru was far away, and the reality of the poverty of the Quechua people even further.
In 2014, Quechua Benefit offered the first Education with a Destination Peru Tour, which promised a look at places and people that aren’t usually seen by tourists and travelers. The trip through the highest, most remote areas of the Andes included visits to the alpaca farms who exported the first alpacas to the US, a roundup of wild vicuña for their biennial shearing, and a chance to see Casa Chapi — an experience that called to my hearty, adventurous soul.
As promised, the experiences were second to none, and certainly not for the squeamish. Between narrow, winding mining roads that plunged to canyons far below, to accommodations and food that would try the strongest constitution, I, indeed, saw awesome sights that few gringos get to see.
But it was when we reached Casa Chapi that I fell in love. As we pulled up to the gates, the children were lined up waiting to greet our group. Their colorful clothing matched their rosy cheeks, sparkling eyes, and beautiful smiles. Each child hugged every one of our group, and I suspected that some of the children went through the line more than once for another hug. Some were shy, a few boys clowned, all were cheerful and happy to see us.
I’ve returned to Peru three times since that trip. I now help direct the educational programs for Casa Chapi. And I must tell you that nothing in the photos, or the literature, or even this beautifully produced video can prepare you for the power of the love at Casa Chapi. You need to visit and find out for yourself.
Enormous thanks to Jay Reeder of and Nigel Joseph for filming and producing this video. Jay serves as Chief Catalyst at Georgia Calls, a nonprofit organization with a heartfelt calling to help rebuild and reestablish families experiencing the hardship of homelessness, in all its forms. He also runs Apple Mountain Alpacas in Clarkesville, Georgia with his wife and three boys.