Una Familia. Un Mundo.
WeÂ´re well into our first week of the Service Vacation to Peru and Ecuador and one thing is very clear – it is a small world after all. Yes, people can speak different languages, and communicate in many different ways, and will always have their cultural and regional differences. But serving others, especially with love – in a different continent far away from home is the single greatest gift we can give each other to bridge any and all differences…
The care and detail provided by Pastor Wilfred of Camino De Vida in Cusco, Peru, in ensuring a meaningul stay here in Cusco has been truly amazing. The Peruvian people have been very warm and friendly – especially in those instances where we lost our way, with no cell phones or guidemaps on hand.
Sonali telling me before I left – Â¨We hope you guys come back home soon, donÂ´t stay there and start another Seva Cafe!Â¨…as we are walking through the streets of Cusco, a young American girl stopping us and informing us of a cafe where everyone is a volunteer, and the proceeds are used to sustain the local community…
Aldea Yanapay: Social Outreach, Food, and Friendship
Aldea Yanapay: Learning To Live Differently
Everyone talks about making a difference. Itâ€™s easy to become disillusioned into believing that talking is enough. The school of Aldea Yanapay is one of those rare exceptions where words like love and peace are lived out every day.
Upon arriving in Cusco, Peru, itâ€™s difficult to ignore the children. The sleepy-eyed boy relentlessly peddling cigarettes and gum, even at two in the morning; the sun-weathered girl in traditional dressâ€”baby goat in armsâ€”offering a forced smile for visitorsâ€™ cameras; the abandoned child crying on the side of the road as tourist buses roll by. These are just the visible faces.
Aldea Yanapay works to alleviate the social injustices faced by the children of Cusco. Directed by twenty-eight-year-old Yuri Barrio De Mendoza, the school provides a haven of love, creativity, and learning for the youth of the city. In existence for only three years, it has already impacted the lives of over three hundred children and forty volunteers.
Volunteers offer what they can of their time; some stay for a few days, others for as long as a year. Aldea Yanapay recognizes the skills of each volunteer and everything from English lessons to musical performances to capoeira classes is appreciated. Anyone can work here and all are welcomed with hugs and kisses into the Yanapay family.
The children come to the Aldea after regular public school to learn about another way of life. Whether working on homework, playing games, doing crafts, or studying English, they practice tolerance, respect, and freedom.
Many of the students at the school experience various forms of violence and intolerance on a daily basis. At the Aldea, they learn to communicate instead of verbally abuse and embrace one another instead of fight. Through the absence of gender stereotypes, this next generation receives the tools to actively work against the status quo of machismo. Every day, Juan Carlos showers the volunteers with hugs and kisses. Jhon eagerly anticipates knitting class. Boys painting flowers on each othersâ€™ faces are a common sight; here, love and creativity know no boundaries.
In an egalitarian world, the children are treated with the respect of adults, cultivating responsibility towards one another and the world. Daily tea-time discussions, led by the director, Yuri, break down the inferiority complex that has been imposed on these children throughout their lives. Like every other human being, they deserve respect.
Though everything that the students at the Aldea learn is valuable, what immediately strikes visitors is the abundance of love and compassion that emanates from this place. All the children know how to hug and kiss and this school gives them the freedom to do so without fear. The volunteers quickly learn to do the same. Like the children, anyone who enters this world learns how to live another way of life.
CafÃ© Restaurant Yanapay: Compassionate Cause, Cozy Atmosphere, Creative Food
All of the proceeds from this non-profit restaurant serve to improve the lives of the children of Cusco, Peru. Climb up the winding staircase and you will discover a place where brightly colored plastic buckets serve as lampshades, the smell of chocolate caliente tempts your taste buds, the sounds of world music bring you to your feet, and everyone greets you as family. This is CafÃ© Yanapay, a restaurant with ideals equally as innovative as the cuisine.
This restaurant implements progressive methods to fund social projects and create a fair economic system. All profits support the Aldea Yanapay school and cultural center. Employees are treated with respect, both in the wages they are paid and in the opportunities they are given. Young chefs and waiters, looking for experience, can find a supportive environment in which to experiment and learn. In addition, the cafÃ© supports local industry, buying and selling only Peruvian products. These ideals are embodied in the artistic and playful atmosphere.
The light from the balcony windows illuminates the sky blue walls hung with foam clouds, multi-medium artwork, and colorful tissue paper airplanes, butterflies, and school buses. Seating options range from tables decorated with photos of local social projects, a sunny wooden bar, and futon couches clustered in the loft. While service operates on Peruvian time, there is no shortage of activities to engage you while you wait. Toys, games, art supplies, books, magazines, films, music, lively debates, and the occasional salsa dance keep customers content and laughing late into the night.
Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, a six sole menu, and vegetarian options, the food is hearty, creative, and unique. Breakfast dishes will take you on a world tour from France to Mexico to the United States, while never losing the special spice of Peru. Entrees like the chicken in muÃ±a sauce (a mint-like herb native to Peru) and the Andean yuquitas never fail to surprise and delight, combining the tender yet sustenant elements with sauces that tickle the tongue. While some dishes impose the pleasures of sensate confusion, others such as the apple pie with pisco cream and the signature checkerboard crepe, the â€œYurisito,â€ conjure up the satisfaction of a warm fire on one of Cuscoâ€™s many rainy nights. Seats at the bar provide a full view of the kitchen and allow customers to watch as the chefs transform meals into displays of art. Indulge yourself in the orgasmic hot chocolate (the real thing). Itâ€™s guaranteed to make your night.
Yanapay House: Beware of Dogs
The Yanapay House, a home for the volunteers of the Aldea Yanapay school, is more than just a place to live. Though volunteers stay anywhere from one night to one year, each and every one is welcomed in as a member of the family. This place provides a loving atmosphere, home-cooked meals, the guard-dog Yanapay, and your very own doting mother figure to greet you with a hug and kiss every morning at breakfast.
Located only a five minute walk from the main plaza and the school, the two-story house is surrounded by a beautiful grassy courtyard. The insideâ€”spacious with wooden floors and multi-media artwork handmade by the directorâ€”has five rooms available for rent at 290 dollars per month (subject to change). The cost includes three meals a day (vegetarian options available), free internet, hot showers, and a loving family.
Life at the Yanapay House is guaranteed to include the values of peace and love so integral to the entire project. On any given night, the volunteers (director Yuri included) may stay up watching movies and baking cookies. They might light a roaring bonfire in the backyard and roast marshmallows while music blasts from the stereo. Or they might travel to local cevicherias for lunch, take day trips to the Pisac market, and spend weekends exploring Lake Titicaca and the floating islands.
By living at the Yanapay House, the volunteers have the opportunity to financially support the entire Aldea Yanapay project and the ideals of sustainability it embodies. Time spent here will not only further the goals of the project, but also give insight into the welcoming nature of so many of the people of Peru.