The phone rang, and Stephanie Cooke, Quechua Benefit’s Medical Missions Director, said, “I have two tons of soup that a company wants to donate.”
“Really?” I said. “That’s a lot of soup.”
Rather than make a long story short, I am going to give you the details of how 4,000 pounds of soup made its way from the state of Washington to Lima, Peru, and then on to Casa Chapi Children’s Village in the Colca Valley at 12,000 feet above sea level (not to mention a stop in customs, where it spent an unscheduled few weeks being cleared).
This story has a happy ending.
The soup, a nutritional combination of lentils, beans and rice, had only one flaw. The original order that a client placed with Agape Food specified brown rice, but someone along the line made a mistake and mixed the batch with white rice instead. One man’s problem became another’s treasure, and the company offered the soup to Quechua Benefit.
The immediate question became, “How does one cost effectively ship two tons of soup to Peru and get it all the way to Casa Chapi?” Stephanie, whose persistence is a virtue, went straight to work and called Adam See at Vida Peru, a Peruvian NGO that transports medical equipment to distribute to clinics in the poorest parts of Peru. Steph asked if they would be willing to make room in one of their shipping containers for the soup. To our delight, they agreed.
Next, the soup made a weeklong boat trip to Lima, where we were all excited and ready to receive it. But Peruvian customs officials had a different plan, for they did not like the label, which they felt did not sufficiently describe the soup. They also objected to its being packaged in 20-pound sacks and asked, “Who could eat that much soup at one setting?”
After collecting all of the ingredient details and explaining to them that it would be fed to about 100 students and staff each day at Casa Chapi, it seems we satisfied their appetite for information and not long after, they released the soup.
The very best part of this long story is where the soup ended up. While it resided in a Lima customs warehouse, a tragic earthquake hit Ichupampa, a town very close to Casa Chapi where 80% of the town’s structures were reduced to rubble. The town’s residents are eating at pop-up soup kitchens on the four corners of the town square and sleeping in plastic tents.
Quechua Benefit decided to pay the soup forward and donate it to the earthquake victims of Ichupampa. The truth is, they need it more urgently than Casa Chapi.