Celebrating 25 Years Serving the Quechua People

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.

Mike and Don Julio Barreda

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.  

The first dental mission in Don Julio’s hometown of Macusani in 1996

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. 

Casa Chapi Primary School opened in 2014. This photo shows its current campus. 

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:

  • Education
  • 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.

The 2019 Education with a Destination Peru Tour is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to extend further into the landscape and the natural habitat of the alpaca and the people that have nurtured these incredible creatures and fiber for countless years. The unforgettable experience begins October 21, 2019. Check out the full itinerary here.

Experience Accoyo and the Vicuña Chaccu

Join us as we visit three of the most famous alpaca herds in the world, including the farm that won the most championships at the International Alpaca Fiesta in 2018. For the first time in years, see Accoyo, the premier ranch of world-famous Peruvian alpaca breeder Don Julio Barreda, whose question, “What can you do for my people?”, inspired Quechua Benefit’s founding. Experience the Peru Tour exclusive of the Picotani Vicuña Chaccu.

“Peru is a most fascinating country; its people, alpacas, vicuñas, scenery, culture… Plenty of things made the trip unforgettable. Thanks to Quechua Benefit´s incredible Andean network, most of the time we were far away from general tourist amenities. We experienced things ordinary visitors never would come near. Doing all of this together with a wonderful group of international alpaca breeders meant that we learned a lot and also had such fun! I’ll definitely be back!”— Ann Marie Gerber-Santesson, Österlen Alpacka, Sweden

Amanda VandenBosch, an internationally famous alpaca judge, and  Mike Safley, Quechua Benefit founder, will be leading the trip.

You can extend your stay with an optional trip to Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas and one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Click here for more information, or call 503-628-3110.

As we get Peru Unplugged up and running, I am really looking forward to sharing regularly about alpacas. The 20/20 alpaca will be the primary premise of my alpaca blog posts. 20/20 is simply a metaphor for what we might achieve.

Hopefully this idea will open our minds to a new vision of what is possible when we apply science to the art of alpaca breeding. As we walk this path, I am going to lean heavily on what I have learned from Don Julio Barreda and my 30+ years of alpaca breeding. The topics will include:

  • EPD selection techniques
  • Breeding for specific commercial traits
  • Genetic gain
  • Ideal alpacas
  • Alpacas as livestock
  • Alpaca judging

The status quo or conventional wisdom of the current alpaca breeders needs to be challenged – or as Don Julio said, “We all need to walk a little faster.”

I first met this remarkable man in the early 1990s when I was president of the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA). I was interested in creating contacts with Peruvian alpaca breeders and textile manufacturers, I decided to correspond with the International Alpaca Association (IAA) headquartered in Arequipa.

Not many months later, before it was even legal to export alpacas from Peru, I accepted the IAA’s invitation to visit and made the first of many trips in 1991. One of the first questions I asked upon arrival in Peru was, “Who is the greatest alpaca breeder in Peru?” “Don Julio Barreda,” everyone replied without hesitation. I asked my hosts if they might introduce me to Don Julio. They agreed and invited him to a dinner party in Arequipa.

The day before the dinner, I got my first glimpse of Barreda’s alpacas at Grupo Inca’s farm Sallalli, which at that time was located near the Colca Valley. The farm had just purchased 24 machos from Barreda’s farm, Accoyo. They were larger than any alpacas I had ever seen. Their fleece quality was so striking that I remember thinking they must be a different breed than the ones I had at home, which I had imported from Chile.

At dinner, I finally had the opportunity to speak directly with Don Julio. We began the first of many conversation about Don Julio’s passion for alpaca breeding, and by the end of the evening, Don Julio agreed to visit my ranch in Oregon the following July.

As promised, he visited the following year and stayed in our home. We held a reception in his honor, where Don Julio addressed our guests:

I know that you, my fellow breeders from North America, can walk with longer, quicker steps and will, with the aid of the science that is available here, create a type of alpaca to your own liking. Allow me to say this – It would be ideal that my experiences, although maybe a bit old-fashioned, could facilitate the progress that you foresee and maybe, thanks to an honest collaboration, we could make the alpaca an animal known and respected in each household of your great nation.