OAT's Cuzco associates help rebuild a home destroyed by February's mudslides
In early September, a team of 13 associates and Trip Leaders from OAT's Cuzco office took a 90-minute bus trip to the village of Urubamba. This is the heart of Peru's Sacred Valley, not far from the spectacular ruins of the Incas—but there are much more recent ruins here as well, left behind by the mudslides that devastated the area in February of 2010. It was these ruins, and not the famous landmarks, that brought the OAT associates to Urubamba that day. They were ready to help repair them.
For more than five years, Leonor Ccori and her family have welcomed OAT travelers into their home, graciously sharing their culture and hospitality with tour groups exploring the Sacred Valley. The Ccoris were hit hard by the mudslides, as were Emma Llanos and her family, also regular OAT hosts. To help the two families get back on their feet, Grand Circle Foundation raised more than $24,000, which included contributions from 216 generous travelers and a matching Foundation gift of $10,000.
While the damage was devastating for both families, Emma Llanos was more fortunate, because the home was still structurally sound. In her case, the Foundation funds were used to help replace the furniture and appliances that were destroyed inside. The Ccori home, however, collapsed completely, and required an extensive rebuilding effort. To complicate matters, construction crews had to wait weeks to begin their work due to the heavy rains that fell throughout the spring.
Eventually, though, the skies cleared and the project was ready to begin. Not content with simply handing over a check to the Ccoris, OAT's team in Cuzco decided to donate their time and energy as well. Erik Cardenas, OAT's Area Manager in Peru, organized a community service event to help renovate the Ccori home, once structural engineers deemed it safe. "The goal of the project was to paint the dining room," explains Erik, "and to remove debris from around the home to allow the construction of a perimeter wall." The group split into two teams: one to focus on the dining room, including the purchasing of paint and supplies; and another to remove the rocks and dirt that had accumulated in and around the house.
From 10:30am to 4:00pm, the team worked tirelessly. "Moving the big rocks that were left behind by the river was not an easy task," says Erik, "but working together as a team really made the difference." When the lifting, painting, and digging was finally complete, the volunteers joined the Ccori family for a celebratory lunch. "We did not have guinea pigs this time," says Erik, referring to the Peruvian specialty that Leonor loves to prepare for OAT travelers. "But what we received was so much greater. With every bite, we could feel the gratitude of Leonor, her husband, and her children." It was a rewarding end to an event that further solidified the friendship between OAT and this wonderful family.
Erik, too, shares in the Ccoris' gratitude. "Thank you to Grand Circle Foundation and all of our travelers for bringing smiles back into Leonor's family."
According to Erik, there is still much more to be done at both damaged homes, so he's planning additional community service events at both the Ccori and the Llanos houses. For further updates, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter.