2021 marks the 25th anniversary of Quechua Benefit’s founding. Since Mike Safley’s friend Don Julio Barreda asked his simple question, Quechua Benefit has been growing and changing to meet the needs of Peru’s Quechua people.
In 1996 “Don” Julio Barreda and Mike Safley were sitting in the town square at 14,400 feet above sea level drinking coffee. They were discussing Mike’s new book about the life and times of Don Julio, the world’s greatest alpaca breeder. Julio lifted his cup and hesitated before asking, “Is there anything the alpaca breeders in the US could do for the people of my community?” The translator, who was also a dentist in the USA, asked Don Julio, “Is it possible to bring a team of dentists to Peru and provide dental care?” Don Julio said, “Bueno,” and Quechua Benefit was born.
Since that first mission in 1996, Quechua Benefit has walked an ever-widening path. From the very beginning Don Julio insisted on focusing on women and children. The teams treated men, but Don Julio always complained, saying,
“The men take care of themselves.”
His original vision to help women and children has become a fundamental principle of Quechua Benefit.
For the first few years, Quechua Benefit flew dental teams into Peru and visited more than 40 communities. They treated tens of thousands of patients, pulling teeth for long lines of some of the poorest people on earth.
In the early 2000s Quechua Benefit added international medical teams consisting of pediatricians, cataract surgeons, general practitioners, gynecologists, and nurse practitioners.
Following 10 years of medical missions, Quechua Benefit came to realize that the need in Peru was, as Don Julio said,
“like a dripping faucet that never stops.”
To address the “leaky” faucet, Quechua Benefit began donating to existing children’s homes operated by other nonprofits. Quechua Benefit observed that the children’s success depended on a safe home and nutritious food, especially in the unforgiving environment and grinding poverty of the Peruvian highlands.
These observations led to the construction of Casa Chapi in 2010. Casa Chapi began as a children’s home consisting of seven buildings, solar power and a medical clinic. The children who lived at Casa Chapi began to thrive, excelling at their nearby public school. Peru’s Ministry of Education took notice and approached Quechua Benefit to ask the charity to build its own school onsite.
In 2015 Quechua Benefit refined its mission in Peru to focus on Breaking the Cycle of Poverty. Some would argue that “breaking the cycle of poverty” is too general, too grand, too ambitious. The Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutierrez argues,
“Latin American misery and injustice go too deep to be responsive to palliatives.”
We all know that small efforts, delivered sporadically, do not lead to lasting change. Our reach must be more constant, more ambitious. It must be transformational in nature and sustainable for future generations.
Quechua Benefit believes that transforming Peruvian society must begin with the youngest and most vulnerable populations, including:
- Women, primary single mothers
- Children from birth through their graduation from high school
- Quechua speaking livestock breeders
To break the cycle of poverty, Quechua Benefit uses a holistic two-generation poverty alleviation approach that focuses on permanent solutions that begin early in the Quechua people’s lives. This approach has three main components:
- Parasitic Anemia Prevention
- Livestock Welfare
This gives children access to effective education programs, ensures that women and children receive anemia prevention therapy, and teaches adults economically empowering livestock management skills. In short, Quechua Benefit is starting to break the cycle of poverty for the most vulnerable people in the Andean highlands.
During the first 25 years Quechua Benefit has touched thousands of lives. But much work remains to be done, and Quechua Benefit has set its sights on the future.
Thank you for your support that is making it possible to fulfill our mission to break the cycle of poverty.