Mike Safley By Mike Safley | October 20, 2016

A peek behind the curtain: Quechua Benefit’s team in action, part one

Nonprofits often report on their activities by quantifying the results in mathematical terms, and Quechua Benefit is no exception. But this measure does little to reveal how teams form, assign tasks, and act selflessly to create those beautiful numbers, such as 2,500 patients served, 3,000 warm blankets distributed, construction completed on a 4-room 4,000 square foot schoolhouse, or 100,000 patients provided free medical and dental care.

Quechua Benefit has done all of these things and more, but these numbers do not begin to describe the work that hundreds of loving volunteers and generous donors do to create the math.

The most recent trip to Peru by a Quechua Benefit team is a case in point – the story of people moving small mountains to make an immediate difference in people’s lives.

The mission at hand involved the roll out of Quechua Benefit’s “Healthy Communities” initiative. The objective was to implement our pilot project for preventative health education, which focuses on parasite and anemia eradication with testing and treatment for all Colca Valley school children and their parents. The project also includes preventative dental care and education about oral hygiene in each school. This entire mission was to be filmed by Hitchhiker Films for a documentary titled, “Searching for Siomera.”

But the real story is how 15 volunteers impacted the lives of an entire valley over 15 days.

blankets-colca-valley-83The first team member to arrive was Richard Miller, our steadfast translator who has served on many Quechua Benefit missions over the years. Richard, who is 70-something, was planning to spend a few days acclimating to the altitude at 8,000 feet in Arequipa before heading up to Chivay. Then, an earthquake whose epicenter was very close to Casa Chapi called him to abandon his plans and join Peru Country Director, Alejandro Tejada, to immediately travel to 12,000 above sea level and assess the damage up and down the Colca Valley.

They found Casa Chapi safe and virtually untouched, but the neighboring town of Ichupampa was in ruins. 80% of the buildings became piles of rubble; water, sewer, and power supplies were all inoperable. People were forlorn, eating at soup stations on corners of the town square and sleeping unprotected in the park.

Quechua Benefit became the first non-profit responder on the scene. Richard and Alejandro procured and began distributing warm blankets.

Next, board members Dale Cantwell, Dr. Charles Gulotta and I arrived and headed to the Colca Valley. Soon after, Casa Chapi Education Director Sue Regier and QB Medical Director Stephanie Cooke showed up with Dr. Jose Mosquera, an internationally known public health expert, and Cassandra Puls, a specialist in developing nation’s education. They all joined the Quechua Benefit team. The Peruvian QB team of Dr. Juan Rosado, Carla Villanueva, and Claudia Añi were added, and Aaron Marcillino and Andrew Curtis of Hitchhiker Films arrived to round out the troops on the ground. The face of our all-star team was set.

But the previously laid plans to kick off the Healthy Communities initiative and film a documentary covering the campaign were in near shambles. The earthquake and damage to Ichupampa created a humanitarian crisis that changed everything. Now, in addition to the Healthy Communities roll out in seven towns and ten schools, an entire village desperately needed Quechua Benefit’s help.

The team decided to split into three smaller units:

    • the medical mission team
    • the educational evaluation team
    • the disaster relief team

Hitchhiker Films was strategically deployed to cover each initiative in addition to filming the “Searching for Siomera” documentary.

Find out how each of these teams worked tirelessly to change lives in the following three parts of A Peek Behind the Curtain.

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