Northwest from the central city of Huanuco, Peru, Caserio Yanayacu lives nestled within the valley that also holds the cities of San Sebastian de Quera and Ingenio. Exactly, Yanayacu is located at latitude -9.8598405 and longitude -76.3240665 for those that love GPS locations to get an idea of what we are talking about. It's altitude: 2280 m MSL, nearly 7,000 feet.
If you locate the city of Huanuco, you travel north east 1900 meters following the Huallaga river; we always make sure to stay on the west side of the river and pass a section of dirt road we call "the dance party". This term was introduced to us by the local priest, Padre Terri, who was the first person to introduce us to the schools in the area that could use our help. Padre Terri said "alright, ready for the dance party?" as he entered this section of dirt road that was in such bad condition that it would shake the truck violently in all axis, in turn whipping your waist and torso in all directions, making it worse than dancing, but inevitably out of control.
At the point where the Huallaga river meets Rio Garbanza, we would turn left and follow the signs towards the city where the river gets its name, Garbanza; then, proceeding to San Sebastian de Quera or simply known as Quera. At this point, we would normally ask for directions to point us towards the Caserio Yanayacu.
In this area everybody is very friendly; the older folks remember a time in history when things were not as friendly as they are now, and terrorist groups like Sendero Luminoso would terrorize the local families and make their young males flee to higher ground to avoid mandatory draft, or quite honestly slavery. There is an interesting fact about how this terrorist group would grow its soldiers; in which, they would take the male against their will, but they would sign a contract-like agreement, in which they would be set free when their time was up, very much like an organized military.
Today the ground is a lot more peaceful than what it used to be, but they aren't clear of dangers, as the drug cartels still from time to time come by to darken the otherwise peaceful reality of this region.
Quera is an additional 10 clicks from the river intersection, due west; when traveling these paths, you must get used to a few of the characteristics of the Andes roads; first, lots of left and rights, altitude is a bear if you aren't used to it, and also, the moment you depart the river basin, it is typically an upward trajectory, with more sharp curves (Curvas Peligrosas) and sometimes stretches of dirt road where only 1 car fits through. It is very typical to see crosses or small sanctuaries made in memory of people taken by the abyss.
After 5 more Kilometers we finally arrive at our destination. Yanayacu is a very small settlement, where fewer than 30 kids attend initial and primary school. They survive from their small farms carved on the sides of the mountain, and to some extend in the plains of the valley, but regardless, all very difficult to access due to the condition of the roads. Getting fertilizer or any other tools of farming is very difficult and costly and the residents have to make sure their crops are done right every year, which is a challenge, especially now that they are being hit with catastrophic changes to the climate. Some winters are so harsh that farmers have lost their crops; and in turn possibly loose all their ability to be financially stable in the upcoming months. These realities are exacerbating an already challenging situation.
The students are all amazing kids, very welcoming and kind. Their gratitude is written in their faces. The teachers are also warm and so full of hope for their kids. I continue to repeat the fact that these teachers don't usually live where they teach, in most cases they have to commute for hours on a daily basis to teach in their schools; some of them stay for a couple consecutive days, some stay for more. I've even heard of a teacher that works in such a remote region that she stays for a month straight, with her kids who are of primary school age, so she is able to supervise them and work at the same time.
Here we met Mr. Joaquin Santiago and Ms. Sheila Tucto Santamaria, respectively the directors of the primary grades and the initial grades. Both are wonderful individuals that can't stop showing us gratitude for the fact that there aren't any institutions that come this way to provide assistance to their students. We are the first.
As it is a welcoming tradition in this region of Peru (and many other) every where we go we are fed lunch, even if we just arrived there at 9am, but because we communicated to them that we need to get going to the next school before 11 am, Maestro Joaquin insists that we eat early. And in typical fashion for the region, in the menu: Cuy. I'll let you, the reader google that.
We are grateful to be able to work with such a wonderful school, we are happy to provide their students with help in the form of school supplies, which no matter what brings them the ability to be educated in a better way; definitely much better than their status quo, which would mean sometimes borrowing pencils from the school and writing in whatever paper they can get their hands on.