Hi, It’s Mene again! This blog post is going to be dedicated to a life lesson learned while working at the Sacred Valley Project.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the community of Socma, about a 4 hour walk from Ollantaytambo, or a 2 hour walk from the town of Pachar. Two of the girls at the dorm come from this community. The purpose of the trip was to film a “day in the life” of one of the students in their home community.
To reach Socma, we (Joe, a LAFF volunteer, and myself) took a bus to the town of Pachar, walked about an hour on the Peru Rail train tracks that run through the mountains, and then hiked up a steep incline to finally arrive at Socma. The journey was, in the simplest of terms, beautiful. It was as if we were adventurers on a journey through the mountains.
Although Socma recently got “upgraded” to having electricity (each family has about 1 light bulb) and a semi-paved road for cars, this rural community is still living as it has been for hundreds of years. The entire community is comprised of farmers, who support their families by growing several varieties of potatoes and corn. If you ever get the opportunity to walk the streets of Socma (which I highly recommend!), you will see domesticated animals, such as bulls, cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens roaming freely, grazing the many chakras or farmlands.
Beyond seeing a community retain its’ traditional agricultural way of life, the most profound experience for me was hiking the road up to Socma, and later hiking the road back down to the Sacred Valley. Why did these simple roads that transport goods, people, and beliefs to the town have such a lasting impact on me? I finally got to experience what it’s like for the girls at the dorm to have to walk 4 to 5 hours a day just to attend high school. Were it not for the Sacred Valley Project, many of the girls would still be making this daily commute, or would more than likely stop attending school all together.*
Just the other day, I asked Dina, the first graduating “senior” at the Sacred Valley Project, what having to walk to school every day meant to her. Before the Sacred Valley Project, she would walk 3 hours to get to school and 3 hours to return home (she had to wake up at 4am just to get school by 8!). Words describing her emotions towards her daily commute included, “boring”, “tiring” and “hard”. When asked what the actual walk meant to her metaphorically, Dina described her struggle as a “sacrifice,” saying that the walk was as important as “gold” to her because she would be earning a true education, on her path to becoming a professional.
Beyond Joe teaching me how to repair a wheelbarrow (which is definitely a heck of a life lesson), understanding what the word “sacrifice” means to someone like Dina was a life-shaping lesson for me. It’s in these humbling moments in life that one remembers to be thankful for what one has.
This coming weekend, Joe and I are thinking of visiting other communities where some of the other girls are from, such as Anapahua and Pomatales. I know it will be an amazing experience and I look forward to the beautiful walk along the ancient Inca paths!
As a quick side note, some updates on the construction process! The foundation of our dormitory has been completely dug out! Also, with the help of a World Challenge volunteer group from New Zealand, we’ve been able to move several truckloads of rocks and sand so that the workers on site can continue filling the foundation. Additionally, this past Monday, SVP held a traditional “pago” ceremony to pachamama, or Mother Earth, to ensure that the construction process finishes on schedule and guarantee that the building is given pachamama‘s blessing.
Anyways, we’ll talk later! Until next time!
*Socma is one of the most accessible communities, located closer to the Sacred Valley than many others. There are girls at SVP who live 6 hours from the nearest secondary school!