Greetings and Welcome to the 2nd Kusi Kawsay Newsletter
Our intention continues to be to create and sustain a community of supporters for the truly incredible and inspiring vision that is Kusi Kawsay. We envision this newsletter as a way for people to stay connected and be informed about the history, life and needs of this amazing school.
In this edition we are delighted to be able to include visual images by one of our newsletter editors, Robert Blumberg, recently back from a trip to Peru. And there are stories too—Ann Beckham shares how she became involved in the dream that created Kusi Kawsay. A fifteen year old student describes how his mornings unfold as he prepares for school, and Rosaura Farfan Aguilar tells of the challenges and obstacles she overcame on her path to becoming a teacher at Kusi Kawsay.
Although we may each describe our experience differently, those of us who have been touched by the adults and children of Kusi Kawsay agree that it is a profoundly special project. Carron Mulligan, a Waldorf teacher from British Columbia, Canada who has been on sabbatical and volunteering at the school this year shares her perpective:
“I believe the sacred valley of Peru and the traditional people and their music, language, and way of life hold the ancient knowledge and wisdom that our planet needs at this time of global change and transformation. I see the children of Kusi Kawsay as a bridge between this ancient knowing and the future we are being called to create. Through manifesting their dream of Kusi Kawsay, the founders of the school planted a sacred seed in fertile land and I see they are tending this sprout with tremendous devotion. My hope for the school community is that it receives the support it needs to continue to grow into its full pure potential and blossom. Kusi Kawsay has the potential to be a gift to all of humanity.”
We hope you too will consider supporting Kusi Kawsay.
Merilee Clunis, Margaret Schonfield, Barbara Walkover, Editors
We want to give special thanks to Monte Amador, in Holland, who has provided the technical know-how, artistic sense and overall magic to actually get this newsletter formatted and sent. Monte, thank you for your support of Kusi Kawsay, and your support and feedback to us.
The Beginning of Kusi Kawsay
By Ann Beckham, Board Member, Pachamama’s Path
In 2005, I went on an adventure to Pisac, Peru. What awaited me was beyond my imagination. Local families— Roman and Fielding Vizcarra and their children, and the families from the traditional Andean musical group Wiñay Taki—invited me to visit the elementary school in nearby Taray, Peru.
I noticed immediately that the school had few of the basics we take for granted in the US. There were few books or pencils and no crayons or supplies. A woman with an infant tightly wrapped in a shawl on her back was making soup for lunch. Her cooking equipment was a pot with one handle broken off and a coffee cup as a dipper.
When I returned several days later to judge the student cooking contest, I brought school supplies and a small, inexpensive globe as the contest prize. I was delighted by the dishes the kids had cooked and by their descriptions of the preparation and nutritional content. When the school principal found out what I was doing, he told me to hand over the globe so that he could give it to smart city children instead of these rural peasant children.
After returning to the US, I heard that all of the things I had bought for the school disappeared within an hour after I boarded my plane. Even more disturbing was learning that indigenous students were routinely physically punished in school for various reasons including speaking their Quechua language. Common punishments were having their mouths burned with hot peppers or being forced to kneel on sharp bottle caps while holding a large rock in each outstretched hand. This kind of treatment and the system that allows it to continue today is what led the group of indigenous parents I met in Pisac to decide to create a school for Quechua children.
These parents spoke about their dream— to enable their children to become confident, educated and empowered to carry their community and their culture into the next century. And I felt their dream. So when I returned to the U.S., I began work to help them establish a Quechua school in Pisac. In 2007, Pachamama's Path (a U.S. charity) was incorporated and now there is a beautiful school—Kusi Kawsay—perched on a steep Andean hillside overlooking the town of Pisac where happy children learn and thrive. This school lives up to its name. In the Quechua language, Kusi Kawsay means “Happy Life.”
Each of us has a voice inside of us that wakes us up and calls us to action, and my voice whispered to me on that day in Pisac, “this is where you can help.” Although I had never undertaken a project like this, it didn’t matter. I realized I could support this amazing group to realize their dream. You too can be part of the magic that helps this small but powerful school transform lives.
A Child’s Story
By “Jose Mayta” (not his real name), age 15
I get up every morning when it is still dark. I hurry to take our two cows from the corral and lead them to pasture in the hills to graze all day. It is beautiful to hear thousands of birds singing at daybreak. I head back home to find my mother preparing breakfast on the wood fire stove, heating the fresh cow’s milk and boiling the corn. I run to buy bread from the lady on the corner. We all help to brush my sister’s hair and get my youngest sibling ready. My father rushes off to work after breakfast, and I run to catch up with him to help push the tricycles loaded with bundles to the market place. I am exhausted by the mass and weight, but push with all my strength to the plaza to Dona Roja’s booth. I then hurry to cart Don Juan Mena’s bundles to his booth. I notice that some children are starting to walk up to Kusi Kawsay, my school, and I get nervous. I finish up as quickly as possible and head home. I open the faucet of ice-cold water in my patio and rinse my head. I feel refreshed and run out the door saying goodbye to my mother.
I hold my notebooks tightly as I run through the school gate just in time, happy to have another day with my friends and dear teacher. We are doing biology and I have stories to share that my parents told me last night about Mama Sara.*
* Sara is the Quecha name for corn
A Teacher’s Story
By Rosaura Farfan Aguilar
When I was around eight years old, I would often play school with the children in my neighborhood. A chalkboard and eraser were enough to start the game, and I liked to be the teacher. At thirteen, I told people that I wanted to be “a secretary, flight attendant or a teacher.” My family criticized this response saying, "The family needs a lawyer, and you are so capable so you will study law.” But life had other plans for me, because four months after graduating from high school I got pregnant. My life changed enormously, and I was a great disappointment for all my family and focus of gossip. My world darkened.
One day I awoke and said to myself: “Rosaura, do you want your daughter to experience the difficulties you have experienced? Do you want the sadness to repeat in her?”—two questions that changed my life. I got out of that depression, found work and saved for school. When I had enough saved, I enrolled in a private institute, which turned out to be a scam. I felt that life was against me.
Then I tried again and was accepted into a program two hours away from home.
This time I was determined that nobody would take my dream away. It was a hard decision to move away from my child—but she was also my source of drive and strength. I promised her that I would return as a professional.
During my five years of study I worked every holiday and weekend so I could pay for my studies and visit my daughter in Cusco. As I searched for work, I met Fielding and Roman Vizcarra in my life path. They gave me the opportunity to participate in a Waldorf teacher-training program.
Later, after three years of teaching in a conventional school in Cusco, I was finally able to start work at Kusi Kawsay in 2008. I am very happy teaching here. I consider the essence of my ancestors to be of great importance—this changed my life and helped me to understand harmony in life
Thanks to all that has happened to me, today I am a teacher with a vision of love, gratitude and reciprocity. Urpillay Sonqollay Pachamama for giving me this opportunity in life. And thank you Fielding, Roman, Wiñay Taki and Ann.
Fundraising Events for Kusi Kawsay
By Fielding Vizcarra
I recently returned from a very successful fundraising trip to Washington DC, NYC and London. Our network of supporters is ever expanding. My heartfelt thanks to each and every one of our contributors, and to all of us for doing this important work.
The momentum for this trip began 3 years ago when a dear friend of mine from high school, Sophie Muir, heard my call for help to raise funds to build and run a new school in the Andes. With the help of my sister, Christina, and a few other generous friends, she organized a London fundraiser and has hosted this event annually since. This year was particularly special both because it was held at the Peruvian Embassy in London, and because I was present to share powerful stories and images of the school, the children and the happy life being cultivated.
Preceding this event, Sophie and her parents hosted a benefit in Washington DC, featuring Mr. Muir’s delicious Pisco sours! My sensation of culture shock being back in the States slowly dissipated with everyone’s enthusiasm and interest in learning about Kusi Kawsay and my life in Peru. The concept of creating community we talked about in the first Kusi Kawsay’s newsletter is clearly taking root.
We raised over $15,000.00 at these two events!
Then I went to NYC where I hope to have successfully planted seeds for a Kusi Kawsay benefit in 2013! Please watch for the plans and date. If you have contacts who might like to be part of making this a huge success, please let me know.
Alternatively, if you feel inspired to organize your own event and build our community further, Roman or I may be able to incorporate this around the NYC event or as part of another promotional tour.
May the fragrance of this good work reach each and every one of us, filling our lives with joy, happiness and well-being.
How you can help Kusi Kawsay:
We want to thank all those who have so generously contributed money so that Kusi Kasay can continue its mission.
The current need is for funds for operating expenses. 90% of the students’ families cannot afford even $7-$20 a month for tuition. So funds for actually operating the school—teacher’s salaries, supplies, etc.—must come from private donations because most foundation grants do not cover operating expenses.
Our 2012 operational budget is $120,000. We still need $20,000 to cover this year’s budget. And we hope to get a good start on funding for 2013 before the end of this year as well. A particular budgeting difficulty has been the exchange rate. Since we began, the US dollar has fallen almost 25% against the Peruvian sole—which makes budget forecasting a challenge to say the least.
So the good news is that we are open and flourishing; the other news is that we won’t be able to continue to flourish without your help.
Please know that donations of any amount are most welcome and appreciated. All donations go toward supporting children to attend the school.
That said, a most effective way to support Kusi Kawsay is the Ayni Scholarship Fund:
Andean tradition and life is based on community and “ayni” which means “reciprocity” in the Quechua language. A donation of $1200.00 a year ($100.00 per month) to the Anyi Scholarship Fund provides a year’s tuition for a child to attend Kusi Kawsay. Or $2400.00 supports two children and $6000.00 allows five children to attend the school for a year.
It takes a community to support a community. We encourage people to put together a group (of family, friends or work colleagues) to sponsor an Anyi Scholarship. And even more helpful would be making a commitment to fund an Anyi Scholarship for 5 years. In the spirit of ayni, we would love to name a Kusi Kawsay Scholarship in your name, honor your family or group, or mark a special birthday/event/life achievement/or milestone, in celebration of your being part of the Kusi Kawsay community.
Just imagine, if over the years we can establish a community of Ayni Scholarship Fund providers to cover our entire Operational Budget! Now that would be a dream come true!
Tax deductible donations for Kusi Kawsay can be made to Pachamama’s Path, a U.S. 501(c)(3). Kusi Kawsay is a program of Pachamama’s Path and your contribution can be made through our secure website via Paypal or by mail with a check made out to Pachamama's Path at 5543 Pelican Way, St. Augustine, FL 32080. Contact Ann Beckham at (904) 461-4575 for information on stock/wire transfers.
We also have a new account for direct wire transfers: (Name) Asociacion Educativa Kusi Kawsay; (Type) checking; (Currency) dollars; (Number) 285-1981569-1-43; (Bank Name) Banco de Credito del Peru. The SWIFT code is BCPLEPL.
Another way to help Kusi Kawsay—is through www.giveback.org. If you go to participating on-line stores through the Give Back site, the merchant will donate between 3% and 7% of your purchase to the charity of your choice. Simply log onto the Give Back site, fill out your personal foundation information and select “Pachamama’s Path” as your charity of choice and then shop at the over 400 merchants on their list.