We’re back! From October 19 to 29, a team of seven volunteers joined the 2012 Crooked Trails Service Trip with Seattle Works, traveling to Vicos, Peru. Our group had the opportunity to participate in an incredible cultural exchange experience and lend our support to an amazing project: building improved stoves for local families.
Here’s some history behind this project: Last year, Pablo Tadeo Cilio, a member of the Vicos tourism association (and one of our homestay hosts), saw a model of a stove that could replace the open-fire cooking that is common in many households. It occurred to him that such a stove would be easy to build in Vicos using almost entirely local materials and building practices- an important consideration, since the main goal of the community’s tourism initiative is to promote environmental, cultural, social and economic sustainability. Furthermore, the stoves could be funded in part through volunteer tourism, and would significantly improve environmental and health conditions in local homes. So he went home and built a prototype in his kitchen (really), and created a design that could be adapted to the needs of each house in which it was built. (Read more about the project from Peru-based partner organization Respons here.)
The Vicos tourism association conducted a community evaluation to identify families that would significantly benefit from a cocina mejorada (“better kitchen”), focusing on serving households headed by single mothers and families with many children. Selected families made their own adobe bricks to contribute to the project, and the individual women who would primarily be using the stoves gave significant input as to what design would work best for each of them. Our team felt privileged to be able to learn about the skills needed to build with adobe, and to have a chance to try our hand at mixing mud, stacking bricks, and pitching in wherever we could! In just a couple of days, we assisted in constructing eight new stoves in collaboration with many dedicated community members.
It wasn’t all hard work, though! In addition to the service project, we had the opportunity to enjoy Vicos and the surrounding area. We stayed with host families with whom we shared meals and chats around the fire in the evenings. And the day after we finished working on the stoves, members of the tourism association guided us on two incredible hikes. One group saw local ruins and learned about medicinal plants. And a few of us participated in an intense trek to over 14,000 feet, where we got a close-up look at a glacier and even got to see some cave paintings.
On our last day, our hosts threw us a huge goodbye party, which made leaving Vicos all the more difficult. Many of us have talked about returning someday to reunite with our homestay families and enjoy the stunningly beautiful Andes mountains. One week just wasn’t enough.
After we departed Vicos, we spent a day relaxing in the city of Huaraz. And since no Seattle Works adventure would be complete without a little beer, we celebrated at the Sierra Andina Brewing Company.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this year’s service trip an amazing experience!