Mike Safley By Mike Safley | November 10, 2016

A peek behind the curtain: Quechua benefit’s team in action, part four

It was September 1, 2016 when the three teams deployed: medical, education, and disaster relief. Part 4 of this series covers the Ichupampa earthquake disaster relief volunteers.

Ichupampa, located just minutes from Casa Chapi, is the poorest town in the Colca Valley. Quechua Benefit was one of the first NGOs on the scene of an earthquake that destroyed more the 80% of the town’s buildings.

Richard Miller and Alejandro Tejada arrived several days before Dale Cantwell and I. With the entire group finally assembled, Alejandro arranged an hour-long tour with Mayor Paricela, and the video crew began filming reports from ground zero of the disaster.s1200053

Dale and Mike were joined by Padre Marcos, the parish priest. He explained that the church that was destroyed dated back to the late 1500s. Together they talked about how to best help the community recover.

With Richard Miller translating, the team met with Mayor Paricela, Dr. Mosquera, and Padre Marcos. They identified the rebuilding priorities, focusing on a project in the center of Ichupampa: the Community Kitchen that was destroyed by the quake.

The mayor asked if Quechua Benefit could take over the re-construction of the building, allowing the town to centralize its emergency feeding operations, which are currently limited to open air soup stations in the town square. The project will be rebuilt on the site of the previous kitchen.

Dale, who had previously supervised construction of the Casa Chapi schoolhouse, built the solar farm, and installed Wi-Fi at Casa Chapi, obtained working drawings from the engineer. Alejandro began soliciting bids to create a budget, and I began planning the fundraising campaign.

Once the team returned to the US, board members Amanda VandenBosch and Lynn Edens helped with donations and fundraising. Richard and Stephanie became two of the first people to pledge for the project. Gifts came in from Austria, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Germany, and England.

Today, the reconstruction effort is in full swing, the money has been raised, the contracts with the municipality are signed, the site is being cleared, and Dale is in Peru again to begin construction.

The blank stares of the elderly and the bewildered families milling around their destroyed homes all need to see a building rise as a beacon of hope for the future of their town.

Quechua Benefit’s wish is that the new construction, the town’s first since the earthquake, will provide people with the understanding that they are not alone. That someone loves them. That someone sees their struggle and wants to do something about it.

The new project will serve the community during the town’s reconstruction over the next three years, and then will be a permanent source of daily hot meals for the elderly and the poorest school children.

We hope to have it open by Christmas. That may be a little optimistic, but for now, the 25th of December animates the team’s plans.

Going back to the original premise of this series… that 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, are really not the full and complete story of Quechua Benefit’s work in Peru.

The full story of what 15 volunteers did in 15 days can be summed up in one word: love.

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