Our Founder’s Story

Alpacas connect many Quechua Benefit supporters to the shepherds in Peru. These hard-working people care for 95% of the alpacas on Earth. This is how Quechua Benefit co-founder, Mike Safley, first came to visit Peru.

In 1984, Mike became one of the first alpaca breeders in the USA. By 1989, he was elected president of the formerly known Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA), now Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. He made his first trip to Peru in 1990 at the invitation of the International Alpaca Association (AIA), which is headquartered in Arequipa.

In 1996, Mike began working with the impoverished Quechua communities of the highlands at the request of a man who would become a good friend: Don Julio Barreda. He was a world-renowned alpaca breeder but had a wisdom that radiated far beyond alpacas. Mike wrote the book Alpacas: Synthesis of a Miracle, which chronicled Don Julio’s life and the history of the Peruvian alpaca industry. Our story begins with his simple request.

In 1996, Don Julio asked Mike, “Is there anything American alpaca breeders can do to help the poor Quechua children in my hometown of Macusani?”

The answer was yes and, Quechua Benefit was born.

Mike enlisted the help of a local dentist, Dr. Mario Pedroza, who also raised alpacas. In November 1996, they embarked on Quechua Benefit’s first mission to the Andes. The dental volunteers spent 6 days in Macusani (which sits at 15,450 feet above sea level), seeing 907 patients. Our organization has continued to work with highland communities, expanding programs and creating sustainable opportunities for social justice. Don Julio Barreda, passed away in 2009.

The difficulty of life in Peru is reflected in the infant mortality figures reported by professor Jorge A. Flores-Ochoa in his book, Pastoralists of the Andes: “26% of the infants born are dead before age one; 37.5% are dead before age five; 42% of all babies born are dead before they reach age ten.”

These dismal facts have not changed over time, yet the Andean alpaca shepherds have persisted.

Don Julio once told Mike, “The need in Peru is like a broken faucet. It never stops dripping.”

Since 1996, we have returned time and again, volunteers in tow, to the Peruvian highlands to empower the Quechua community. With your support, we have delivered free healthcare to over 100,000 patients, provided disaster relief, built a primary boarding school (Casa Chapi), started sustainable community projects, and have established life-long friendships with the communities in Peru. But, there is still more to do. With your help, we intend to strategically narrow our focus to address issues afflicting women and children. Now, more than ever, women need fair wages. Children need better education. We cannot wait. We cannot linger.

Mike believes believe that Quechua Benefit’s supporters will continue to participate with the charity as long as they feel the love generated by their gifts of time and treasure. He invites all of you to join with Quechua Benefit and help turn love into hope for the Quechua children and hard-working families of Peru.