By Mike Safley | July 13, 2011

An Expanding Mission in the Andes

Quechua Benefit: An Expanding Mission in the Andes

By Mike Safley
July 13, 2011

Quechua Benefit began in 1996 with a modest trip from Portland, Oregon to Macusani, Peru. There were five team members: Dr. Mario Pedroza, his wife Barrie, Russ Gratton, Mike Safley and Barb Lopez, a dental assistant in Mario’s office. Don Julio Barreda organized the trip and arranged for the team to see patients from six local grade schools. The clinic was operated from the front room of Franklin Tejada’s home in downtown Macusani. That first year the team saw 300 patients, delivered clothes for 500 children and school supplies for six schools. Quechua Benefit has returned to Peru every year since 1996 delivering clothes, school supplies and dental assistance. The alpaca breeders of the United States have made this possible with their kind and generous donations. Fundraising has progressed from a few loyal donors to the point today where more than 216 breeders have contributed, many donating thousands of dollars.


The motivating principal of the Quechua Benefit charity is to provide a vehicle for American Alpaca Breeders to express their thanks to the Quechua Indians who have domesticated and cared for the alpaca from more than 50 centuries. Simply put we have them to thank for our industry and our opportunity to include alpacas in our lives. Alpacas support many, many U. S. owners in a comfortable life style. Alpacas provide a profitable business opportunity for thousands of families across the United States.


The Quechua, on the other hand, are dirt poor. Consider what the mayor of Macusani had to say about Quechua Benefit and the people they serve after the 2003 trip. “We are the poorest of poor provinces, Carabya, in a forgotten corner of Peru. We are at the end of the road and even our own government does not remember we are here. But you have found us year after year and we, and all the Peruvians in the highlands, thank you for your kindness.” The math behind the charity is simple. For every $1.00 contributed approximately $10.00 worth of assistance is delivered. In 2002 we spent $25,622 on the annual trip and delivered goods and services worth $238,000, (when billed at standard U. S. dental rates). Quechua Benefit’s team treated 1046 people. Each of these patients received: a dental procedure, a blanket, rubber soled sneakers or rubber boots, a toothbrush and a toy; the cost $24.50, per person. Each team member volunteers their time, flies economy and sleeps two or three to a room.


The annual mission has grown from a small team with one dentist to a larger group with 3 dentists. The charity owns all of the dental equipment and miscellaneous support supplies necessary to extend the number of days that it operates in Peru. The equipment is currently stored in Peru at the Michell company office. We intend to expand our mission, providing dental care to 6 new towns and to institute a new initiative: The delivery of meals to families and children who are currently undernourished. Quechua Benefit has expanded their fund raising capacity. Just this year the Rotary Club of Carrol Creek, Maryland led by Scott Grove of New Market, Maryland raised $5,000.00 and received a matching grant for $5,000 from the National Chapter of the Rotary Club. They have donated this money to support a mobile dental office that will move from town to town in the Altiplano delivering assistance to those who have none. As alpaca breeders learn of the charity’s activities their generosity continues to grow. Quechua Benefit has made the decision to enlarge their operations from 3 towns to 9 and from 12 days a year to 135.


The second Quechua Benefit initiative involves expanding two existing soup kitchens or food programs which serve adults and children that live in the communities that the Quechua Benefit serves. Hunger is a reality in the Altiplano. Children grow up with a void in their stomachs that is never quite full. Sister Antonia Kayser is a 79 year old nun from Brooklyn, New York. She and her assistant, Joan Toukig, are Marykoll Sisters of the Catholic Church. Sister Antonia has been feeding 800 people a day since 1983 from the courtyard of the church in Yanque, a small town in the Colca Valley. Antonia and Joan do this five days a week, year in year out. On Saturday they feed 400 more. If you were to do the math you would find that, over the years, the Marykoll sisters in Yanque have provided hungry men, women and children with 4,680,000 individual meals. Sister Antonia is famous in the Colca Valley. Mike Safley and Cathryn Whitman had the opportunity to sit down with Sister Antonia in November 2002. They had a simple question, “How do you feed all of those people?” She had the gardener show them the green houses where the vegetables were grown and she invited Mike and Cathryn back at 5:00 am to witness the preparation and distribution of the meals. It is a very simple operation. A dozen huge black pots are filled with vegetables from the garden, a little meat and water. After simmering for several hours the soup is ladled out to the women and children in the line that have waited patiently for the gate at the entry of the courtyard to open. They each bring a piece of dry dung or a branch from a tree to fuel the cook fire; it is their individual contribution to the effort. They have a notebook which authorizes them to get a ration for each person in their family. They sign in and their pail is filled. Everyone fades into the dawn. Mike asked Sister Antonia how she had supported this program for so many years. She replied, “God provides.” He asked how Quechua Benefit might help and she said, “We could use a little more meat for the soup and some seeds for our garden.” Quechua Benefit, with your help, is going to assist Sister Antonia and Sister Joan in 2004, with a monthly stipend. There is an orphanage in Macusani, Mosoq Runa, run by the Sisters of the Cross. Quechua Benefit operates their dental clinic out of the orphanage. They also have a food program for the children who live outside the facility. They currently feed 50 children a day. Their goal is to increase the number to 100 outside children a day. These kids are the poorest of the poor; all very small and fragile. With your help Quechua Benefit can make that commitment to the kid’s health and well being. As time goes by the Board of Directors intends to support food distribution programs that are already operating and located in the towns that the mobile dental clinic visits. Your donations can make this possible.


The charity is supported on the ground, in Peru, by Michell CIA the International Alpaca Association (IAA), and Grupo Inca. They provide logistical assistance, transportation and lodging for the team while they are in Peru, all at no charge. The mission could not succeed without their generous support. We give special thanks to Alonso Burgos, Ignacio Garaycochea, Sandra Carbajol and Juan Pepper who schedule our lodging, arrange transport and store the dental equipment.


The Internal Revenue Service has certified the Quechua Benefit as a 509(a) (1) non-profit status charitable organization. The federal ID number is 31-1682324. Every dollar that is donated to the charity is tax deductible. The board of directors are not paid any consulting or administrative fees, 100% of all donations go straight to the delivery of goods and services to the Quechua people. Last year Quechua Benefit raised $58,398.00. It now has representatives: Wayne Jarvis in New York, Lindy Huber in Kentucky, Marta Moore and Bonnie Ferrell in Colorado and Jack Armstrong in Washington State, who are soliciting local affiliates to allow donations of stud services and other items to their silent auction’s on behalf of Quechua Benefit. In 2003, the Alpaca Western Extravaganza (AWE) breeders donated goods and services that were purchased, by the event attendees, at the not so silent auction, for a total of $44,868.00. For our new initiatives to succeed Quechua Benefit needs your help and donations. The Quechua Board of Directors has created a new advisory board. Members of this board will be representatives of their respective Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, (AOBA) affiliates. They will coordinate fund raising efforts at the affiliate level. If you would like to volunteer please call either Daryl Gohl at 503-407-5943 or contact him by email at, or contact Mike Safley at 503-628-3110 or by email at If you would like to volunteer your time to join the team on a visit to Peru please contact your affiliate representative. We also need an experienced grant writer to assist us in the process of applying for institutional grants. We hope you are moved to write out a tax deductible check made payable to Quechua Benefit and send it on to the Quechua Benefit team. God bless you.

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