Chris Reynolds is the founder of The One Effect – Experiments to Change the World. He has been traveling the world creating adventure charity projects for nearly four years. Current projects include rescuing slave children in Ghana, expanding sustainable farming in Peru, and building an inspirational blog. He has also fundraised for children in Costa Rica and is preparing for a race across India on a Rickshaw for 2015. Chris currently spends the majority of his time in Barcelona, Spain. Here’s a week-in-the-life of Chris working on one of his projects in Peru!
Day 1 – Arrival in Cusco, Peru
I wake up and immediately realize I am late to pick up my friends at the airport. (Dani from Denmark talked me into going dancing and drinking with his friends he met on the Inca Trail…oops stayed out a bit too late). Throw on some clothes, run out the door and grab the first cab.
I arrive at the airport and see my group of friends. We hug and hop a taxi back to central Cusco.
We arrive at the bed and breakfast with our nice host Maria and everyone immediately decides they want to rest for a bit due to the elevation (11,000 ft.) and flying for the past 12 hours. Good idea…I need it!
After naps and lunch, we all meet in the B&B lobby and share some coca tea again. Coca tea is known to help adapt to the elevation. We head out and take a tour of the cathedrals on the Plaza de Armas. One of the cathedrals has ancient Inca tunnels that run below it…..Dani, Chad and I look at each other…discuss it…and then realize that there might be consequences for sneaking into the tunnels….mission aborted.
For dinner we have a nice placed reserved that is famous for Guinea Pig. We decide we have to try it. There is a traditional band playing in the restaurant with the lead singer rockin’ a Peruvian flute. The waiter brings us out a plate with a Guinea Pig on top. I have to say the Guinea Pig looks a bit horrific. It almost looks like it was fried alive, however, it tastes quite good.
For the previous three months we had all worked together on a goal to raise enough money to build a sustainable farm for malnourished children in the village of Rumira, Peru. Malnourishment is one of the biggest problems in Peru effecting 900,000 children.
I had visited a village called Tastayoc three months prior. It was miles and miles into the mountains. Tastayoc was a place with breath taking beauty, no electricity, or running water and a place that had a one room school of 15 children.
I went to this village with Carlos Gibaja. Carlos’ family runs a charity that feeds children all around the Sacred Valley of Peru. He wanted to show me a project he had been working on.
In this village there were three small green houses. At this elevation (13,500 ft.) the weather is too cold for most crops to grow outside, so the people of the village built these greenhouses for the school. The children get to use the greenhouses everyday as a classroom to learn how to grow many different types of vegetables. With the food that they grow, they get to eat a free nutritious lunch everyday. This saves the families a lot of money and worry, and also helps the children immensely.
When this project started, the children were very sluggish at school, they had no energy in the classroom and they didn’t even want to play at recess. After a few months they began to like to food and eat it everyday. One year after the children started their new diet, they were energetic at school, enjoyed class and even become the best soccer team in the area because they had so much energy.
Carlos wanted to duplicate this project in a village of 60 children. He had the land to do this, but he had a couple of problems. The land was on the side of a steep mountain and needed an aqua duct to run from the glacier at the top of the mountain to the farm. This would cost around $10,000 USD to terrace the land and build an aqua duct. After discussing the details I was sold. It was a completely sustainable idea that would last for generations. It just needed an initial push to get things going.
This is where we came in. We set a three month goal to raise the money for this farm. We were going to raise the money online, and then at the end of the three months travel to the village and help build the farm.
Back to the Evening of Day 1…
After dinner we all meet on the steps of the main cathedral. We had worked hard putting this project together. I thank them for coming, congratulate them on all their hard work and update the group as we are surrounded by tourists and locals going about their way in beautiful Cusco. We had raised $4,000 at this point and were only at 40% of our $10,000 goal and still had some work and fun ahead of us.
Day 2 – First Day of Work
We make it to the village about 1pm and begin working immediately after the villagers feed us. (Hospitality is abundant in this part of the world.) We enjoy lunch in a mud-brick home and the kitchen is complete with a wood table, dirt floor and a wood burning clay stove. We are fed some soup, and we toast our new friends.
Finally, at 2:30pm we get to work.
(Carlos actually asked us to work for one day to help build a house for a woman in the village. She had seven children and one on the way. She was recently abandoned by her alcoholic husband and the charity was helping her our from time to time. We politely obliged.)
We hustle, moving rocks, and dirt, hauling bricks, and fetching water from the river. We work for about 2.5 hours and the villagers say it is time for beer and chicha (a local Peruvian homemade beer). Man, do we ever want to keep working, but at this point, we have to be polite guests and stop….so we do, and enjoy a nice dinner.
At 7pm we arrive at our hotel on the edge of town. We are all ready for a good night’s rest.
Day 3 – First Day on the Farm
We wake up with some ambition. Ready to change the lives of these children and get to work. Today is going to be our first day meeting the children of the school.
We meet Carlos in the main plaza and Carlos says we are going to go to the market first to buy food for the school. “What?” I think to myself, this was not in our itinerary….in Peru they like to change plans…A LOT….many times without informing others of the change. This completely messes with our western mentality, but is a good lesson in patience.
We pile into a small van and head to the market. When we arrive I realize Carlos made a great decision bringing us here. I think to myself…. “The group will like this place”. The market is complete chaos, but within all the chaos is a system of people selling and haggling food to anyone and everyone. Indeed, you need to be on your toes to catch what was happening.
It takes about 45 minutes to gather and purchase all the food. We then meet back at the van and head towards the school.
We arrive at the school around 10:30am and meet the children. They are ecstatic when we arrive and are jumping around like little rabbits. They sing us songs, we give them presents and the food, and we are all very happy.
Next, is a feat that we didn’t expect. According to my itinerary we are supposed to have a van or truck take us halfway up the mountain to begin work on the farm. Well, somewhere in miscommunication that idea got thrown out the window and Carlos decided to give us two horses to ride. For the rest of us, we have to hike up the mountain. This is fine, except for my 62 year old mother who thinks it is ludicrous.
We start walking up the mountain, and after a few hundred meters, a man comes with the horse for my mom. He helps her up and then the horse begins to trot up the mountain on its own. No guide, no control, nothing. My heart sinks, because I know the trail up the mountain isn’t really safe, and there are steep ledges all along the way. I immediately run to keep up with the horse because I fear for my mother’s safety. But, the more I run, the faster the horse runs because it is scared of me! Finally, I have nothing left in me after running hundreds of yards uphill at 9,000 ft elevation and just let the horse and my mother go. I send a few prayers at that moment hoping for her safe journey.
I should have known that the horse just wanted to catch up with her mate. This is what Carlos tells me, when I finally arrive at the farm. (Duh…sounds so obvious.) Thankfully, my mother is safe and I have to say, right then, I am a little pissed at Carlos and his change of plans!
Carlos tries to console me with some Peruvian Mountain Moonshine…and I politely decline and say, “Let’s just get to work.”
Finally we make it to the farm a day and a half late (due to changing schedules) and we start working.
We work hard homesteading the land. We are digging up and moving rocks. We clear bushes, and move dirt like no other. We are having a great time with the villagers, even though both us and the villagers speak very little Spanish. Their native tongue is Quechua, or a rural version of it. Ours of course being English…many different versions of it.
After a good full day of hard work, we have a celebratory drink (Peruvian Mountain Moonshine….don’t ask me the real name)… and the locals bless the farm offering a drink to Pachamamma…aka Mother Earth.
At the end of the day we are all wrecked. We have moved dozens of massive rocks, chased a crazy horse up a mountain, played with kids and haggled with the vendors at the market….what a day!!!
At 7pm go to the hotel and pass out.
Day 4 – Last Day on the Farm
We awake anew and fresh. My mother informs me she will not be going up the mountain today, she wants to shop around the village. I agree it’s a good idea. Really she fears the horse ride up, and so do I.
We have a big breakfast, and an early start up the mountain. I think we are there by 9:30ish.
We start constructing the first terrace wall. We see how the natives level the ground and build the walls. It’s quite educational, because construction techniques there haven’t changed in a few hundred years.
We bond really well with the villagers today and even give them some nicknames. I think the Peruvian moonshine may have helped.
This is to be our last day on the farm, due to some more changes of plans. The next day we decide to visit Tastayoc, the village with the greenhouses. There is one greenhouse that needs some repair, and the group all wants to see how this whole project got started. Nonetheless, we are all happy with our progress on the farm and our time there. We really enjoyed it.
Day 5 – Tastayoc
At 8am we hop in a van and head for Tastayoc about 1.5 hours up the mountain. Of course the Peruvians have a case of beer in the van…they alway have beer. It is for lunch of course.
We arrive in Tastayoc and are greeted by some more smiling children.
We begin work with a lot of ambition. We knock out all the work we need to do in about half an hour. So we decide to round up the children and play a game of soccer.
At 11:30am the villagers here had smoked us some meat under a pile of dirt. They put the meat in foil, put the foil on hot coals, and then put dirt on top of both. This keeps the heat underground and cooks the meat.
The Peruvians have started drinking already, so we join the fun and the kids sing us some traditional songs.
Lunch is delicious and amazing. The kids, again jumping and screaming like rabbits. They are loaded with energy thanks to those greenhouses.
After a day of joy, and a bit of rest, we head back down the mountain to our hotel.
At 7pm we meet for a final dinner and goodbye. It is a great dinner with some traditional Peruvian food.
Then, Carlos invites us to his girlfriend’s birthday party. We stay out way too late…again!
Day 6 – Almost Missed the Train
At 10am we were to meet at the train station in Ollantaytambo, take the train to Aguas Calientes, and then take a day of rest enjoying the hot springs before we head up the death-defying zigzagged road to Machu Picchu. We are all on time for the train and Dani from Denmark realizes he forgot his passport. He begins an immediate sprint back to the hotel…all uphill, and all hungover from the birthday party. He arrives about 15 minutes later in a mototaxi and sweat dripping from his body head to toe. He is present, but the look on his face is more like death. Luckily he arrives just a few minutes before the train leaves.
Day 7 – Machu Picchu
Arrival at Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is amazing (editor’s note: I agree!) and this trip has been a memory to last a lifetime. There is something to be said about the Sacred Valley of Peru, it is without a doubt a magical place and I recommend it to anyone.
The project ended up raising $10,000. We raised 60% of the money in the week we were in Peru. Today that farm is about two years old and is producing food on a daily basis. It has grown to 10,000 sq. meters and is complete with a greenhouse and a few local gardeners to help.
Each year The One Effect is exploring a new country and finding a new project to help make a difference in the world. The next project/adventure for The One Effect is to build teams and participate in The Rickshaw Run. It is a 15 day intense adventure across India in a motorized rickshaw for charity. Follow along at TheOneEffect.com or at their Facebook page.