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Musings, Inspirations, and Adventures

Welcome…

I intend this blog to be a safe and inspiring space for me to share and express myself intentionally and without the noise and not-so-fun side of social media. I also intend it to be a living, breathing, ongoing conversation. I welcome your thoughts, questions, and even your disagreements…let’s connect, share ideas, explore the world, and this thing called life together!

How to make lemonade from a 7-Hour Layover in London

It turns out that the old adage of “When life gives you lemons…” comes in quite handy when your Norwegian Air direct flight from LAX to Barcelona gets cancelled. I chose not to allow this minor bump to put a damper on my trip (I did after all purchase a super cheap budget flight!) and chose to forego a bump to the same flight two days later. Instead, I decided to take the non-direct option the following day, that included a 7-hour layover in London. I had no idea what (if anything) I would be able to see in that amount of time, but I was willing to find out!

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Donate to a Great Cause: Tierra De Niños!

Hello Friends,

Happy Fall!!

I can’t believe it is the end of September…2014…time is certainly flying by…

But I can’t say that it hasn’t been a very rich and full time! For those I haven’t spoken to recently, I’ll just say that it’s been a year of getting grounded after my time in Peru with Casa de Milagros – which as you can imagine has been a pretty major transition. I also relocated from 15 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and I’m back in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley in California where I grew up; near family, horses, and lots of amazing wine :) I am happy to share that life and business are doing very well. I haven’t had much bandwidth to reach out to many of my old friends or write much on this blog – but that will be changing soon!

The Casa has also gone through much transition, but is thankfully on stable ground, at least for the time being. There are new directors, and a surge of new financial support and resources that have come forward in recent months. I have not been directly involved in the past year, but will continue to support in whatever way I can. I have been in touch with the US Board and new directors, and will be announcing a very cool fundraising initiative sometime in the next couple of months. I will also be involved with a few other projects in Peru that I am helping with marketing and fundraising support. Stay tuned for more info on all fronts!

Tierra De Niños

I’ve been recently asked to help a much smaller but equally wonderful project that is near and dear to my heart – Tierra de Niños. TiNi is part of a larger international initiative called ANIA, that empowers children with environmental skills and knowledge, and is located throughout Peru, and globally. The Tierra De Niños projects are dedicated to educating children and their communities about eco-consciousness, yet ends up being so much more involved and impactful. ANIA provides the training, and framework for leaders to implement their programs in either a school, orphanage, or community setting – such as revitalizing community parks in very underprivileged communities, after school programs teaching kids organic farming, and much more. (See Below for more Info!)

This particular project is in a small rural town outside of Cusco called Rakchi, and is run by a good friend of mine from Lima named Magali Pestaña. Magali was one of the tutors at Casa de Milagros that I hired to run art and various experiential learning workshops with the kids. She’s truly amazing, and super dedicated to social work with children in Peru. She’s been running the Tierra de Ninos project there for over 3 years – and until now, has done all of the fundraising, and logistics on her own, with very limited resources. This year, she has been able to get a couple of more consistent donors, and finally has a bit of stability to be able to run the program through the end of the year. However, the funds cover the basic program needs, such as staffing, supplies, and administrative costs.

Some Projects Magali Runs Include:

  • Greenhouse Maintenance, Gardening & Permaculture
  • Art Classes & Workshops
  • Theater & Oral Storytelling
  • Care of Self & Environment
  • Photography Classes & Workshops
  • Self Awareness through Art & Self Expression
  • Recycled Plastic & Crafts Workshops
  • Cooking Classes
  • Much more!

Magali reached out to me to see if I could help her raise about $750 to cover transportation costs for her and her co-teacher, who have to get to and from the project from Cusco city 4-5 days a week, and are currently doing so out of their own pocket. I would love to help her as much as I can – and my first step was reaching out to my nearest and dearest to see if you felt moved to support in any way – or if you could please forward this info on to any one you think might be interested.

My goal is to get 30 people to donate $25 – but any amount helps!

I have included below a few things to give you more information and details about the project – but if you would like to learn more and have any additional questions, I’d be happy to answer them for you – please Contact Me.

More Info:

DONATING:

I will be collecting funds and wiring a check for whatever I am able to raise by October 5th in one lump sum via a Western Union transfer. Please note that because this is a Peruvian NGO, and not an established US 501c3, you are not able to declare this as a tax deductible donation here in the US (if you are in Peru, Magali will mail you a receipt). Just know that you are supporting a very worthy, grass-roots project, that unfortunately does not have the funds for much marketing, fundraising, or administration – but is doing amazing work!

To donate, you may send a check for any amount, payable to me, to my address:

PO Box 485
Santa Ynez, CA 93460

or you can pay via PayPal:




THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!!

Stay tuned for lots more posts very soon…

Big hugs,

~Claudia

Mamama Adela Turns 80 : A Return to Peru

It was about a year ago that I wrote my last “real” blog post…amazing how time just keeps movin’ right along…

Since last spring, I have been consumed with launching my business, C.Miro Consulting. It has been such a blessed and amazingly rich time. I have learned invaluable lessons about business, life, and myself, and have had the opportunity to serve wonderful clients.

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News & Updates : September 2012

“To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else.”
~Bernadette Devlin

Wow….has it really been 3 months??

Surreal to think that just a few months ago I began this amazing adventure (well, the latest chapter anyway) and oh so much has happened since…

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Pisac

The town of Pisac (Pisaq) is one of my favorite places in the Sacred Valley.  I fell in love with Pisac the first time I came five years ago, and have fallen more in love with it ever since. It’s about 45 minutes from Cusco city and about 15 minutes from Casa De Milagros. Pisac is known for its amazing ruins, and for its popular artisan market. The entire town is lined with ancient Inca agricultural terraces that are still in use today, and the ruins provide an impressive backdrop to the town below. I’ve visited the ruins about 3 times, and there is still so much more for me to see and learn…

Impressive ruins and all, what I really love about Pisac is the market…and the people. Pisac has always been an artisan town with a rich and beautiful tradition of local artisans and vendors that produce everything from handmade silver to pottery and textiles.

Since arriving back in Peru, I’ve been to Pisac several times – mostly for Casa business such as grocery shopping and buying supplies we just can’t get in our little town of Lamay. But it’s also become my day-off destination…where I come to just feel peaceful and happy, and to enjoy a lovely afternoon…

I’ve found my favorite little spots to have lunch or dinner, such as Ulrike’s Cafe, the Blue Llama and the Pisac Inn. My favorite activity in Pisac is to sit out on the street in front of the Pisac Inn – right in the main corner/hub of the market – with a delicious Pisco Sour, and just people watch. There is a fabulous energy to Pisac, and it just seems to draw the coolest people…both tourists and vendors are some of the happiest folk you’ll meet in Peru. Of course I have my go-to vendors for a variety of beautiful handmade goods, and when I can I love to support them.

I just spent a couple of days shopping for gifts for my upcoming visit to the states, and was reminded how much I love this town! ;-) So I thought I’d share a few of my pictures of Pisac over the past few years…Enjoy!

View from the top of Pisac ruins – December 2008

Beautiful belt from a beautiful lady – Pisac Ruins December 2008

Gorgeous Pisac Valley – December 2008

Fancy Flute Player – Pisac Ruins December 2008

 

Beautiful Boy – Pisac Ruins January 2010

Our Fabulous Flute-Playing Guide – Pisac Ruins January 2010

Lulue and I playing Peek-a-Boo ;-) – Pisac Ruins January 2010

A Rainy Market Day – Pisac Market January 2010

A Rainy Market Day – Pisac Market January 2010

“Secrets” – Pisac Market January 2010

Pisac Inn – January 2010

Pisco Sour in Pisac – Pisac Inn June 2012

Beautiful Hats – Pisac, June 2012

Shipibo Tapestries @Ayahuasca Cafe – Pisac, June 2012

Flower Girls – Pisac, June 2012

Mi Amiga de Pisac – Pisac, June 2012

Yoga Saturday with the Kids

Being out of my element, dealing with the transition and stress of the task at hand, and weathering the intensity of Cusco winter season has taken its toll on me physically and emotionally. I knew I needed to do something to care for myself…of course yoga is always the best medicine to tune in and love myself.

Oh how my body misses yoga…

Saturdays tend to be a mixed bag around Casa – usually tons of housecleaning, studying, and some sort of group activity. I have been so busy with the business side of things around Casa this past week, and I really haven’t had as much time as I’d like to hang out with the kids. So I thought I’d invite them to come and do some yoga with me. I ended up getting a larger than expected turn out, and was surprised at what a great yoga teacher I proved to be…;-)

Here’s a shot of the kids learning “Downward Facing Dog”…Yoga made even sweeter with great company :-)

ANIA in Huacarpay: Seeds of Hope

Two and a half years ago, Cusco and the Sacred Valley were hit with some of the most intense and heavy rains in decades. As a result, much of the region was flooded, and there were disastrous landslides throughout Cusco, Much of the road through the Sacred Valley was taken out in several areas, as were some key bridges such as Pisac Bridge.

One of the most severely hit was the small town of Huacarpay, about 45 minutes outside of Cusco. After days and nights of heavy rain in Cusco, the river Huatanay had burst its banks and was raging through the village of Huacarpay, home to 1,600 inhabitants and thousands of livestock. A month after the floods, the whole population of Huacarpay was living in a tent city on a hill above the waterlogged, collapsed village, relying on donations of food, clothing, water and blankets. Thanks to the efforts of relief organizations such as Plan International and the independent charitable group La Casa de Mayten, the villagers managed to create an impressive degree of order amidst the chaos. They constructed a roofed cooking area, and organized relief efforts from within Peru and abroad. A temporary tent school was also built to educate the village’s 300 children.

Part of my work while here in Peru is to visit organizations to see about the possibility of placing volunteers for my work with Beyond Volunteering. Last Tuesday I visited a school called ANIA: Tierra de Ninos “Vida en mis Manos”. ANIA stands for Asociacion para la Ninez y su Ambiente (Association for Children and their Environment). I didn’t know much about the organization before I went, but I placed my first volunteer there, and since she was just finishing up her 3 week stay, I thought it would be a perfect chance to pay the project a visit.

The ANIA School I went to is located in the town of Huacarpay, so I was extremely interested in seeing how the town was doing after the terrible destruction of just a couple of years ago. Before I went, I had a few email exchanges with Yllari Chaska, the project director and volunteer coordinator. She was absolutely lovely from the moment we connected, and she offered to meet me at the bus stop in Cusco so we could head out to the school together. We met at the bus stop, and as soon as we started chatting, I felt like I had known Yllari for years – she was so warm and excited to share with me about the project. You could tell she was extremely passionate about the work.

When we arrived in Huacarpay, we passed through the outside of town where we saw some of the houses devastated from the floods – still just as they stood two and a half years ago, an eery reminder of just how much destruction had taken place.



We then walked up a hill and eventually saw a cute little green school situated on a small hilltop that overlooked a gorgeous lake.


As you arrive, the first thing you see is a beautiful hand-painted gate that reads “to this school come only those that love children.” Awesome ;-) As I entered the school, more beautiful art and gardens greeted me on either side of the walkway. Everywhere I looked there were cute, creative concepts like the “Hotel de Bichos”/Bug Hotel ;-) and simple but wonderful examples of ANIA’s mission at work: to teach these children how to love, honor, and care for the land.

“To this school enter only those that love children”

Manure Compost

Bug Hotel ;-)

Sensory Garden

Then a small woman with a huge smile and cute ruffly green apron popped her head out of one of the classrooms. Yanet is the director and main teacher at the school. She was so warm and friendly and super excited to have us visit, so she ushered us in to the classroom to have us meet the kids. It was wonderful to see the creativity and resourcefulness that true passion can inspire. Yanet showed off all of the tools they have created for the kids, and all the ways they “make it work” with such limited resources and funds. I was blown away at what is possible, and how HAPPY these kids were to be at school!

Most of the children who attend ANIA are from the remote countryside of Cusco, some of them up to 2 hours away. Their families bring them to Huacarpay to receive their education, work as housekeepers, and to learn Spanish. Yllari explained to me that the parents think they’re doing something good, by giving their children a chance to be successful through learning Spanish, but many of them struggle with the realities of sending their children to a school so far away from home. This is why Yanet and the other teacher who works at the school, Norma, make sure to give the children all the love and affection possible. The children are all so affectionate – all of them excitedly said “Hola” to me and a bunch of them ran up to me and gave me hugs. They’re amazingly grateful for the opportunity to come to school, and to receive the level of love and support that they do; and it’s so sad to think that they don’t get the love they deserve where they live. ANIA is their only refuge.

After the floods a couple of years ago – the school at Huacarpay became a fort of sorts for the locals who were displaced from their homes. As a result, the school ended up incorporating an overnight component (“internado”), so the children have been able to stay the night at the school during the week. This has added a great service to the families since the children have a safe place to sleep and no need to travel every day to/from school. But this has also added a substantial expense to an already lean budget for the project, and only a few days after my visit I was informed that the “internado” would be closing.

ANIA’s philosophy is to educate children through means of the environment. They recycle everything, from the dolls they make out of plastic bottles, to the purses they weave from plastic bags, to the benches they’re making out of weighted plastic bottles and mud. They make most of their crafts in art class, and sell them at the annual Christmas Market Cusco hosts every December 24th. The money goes to buying things for the school, as the government doesn’t help them out much. A few years ago they bought some camera equipment and now they have a news show that they broadcast on YouTube.

“Ecological Learning Area”


Energy efficient warm water sinks ;-)

“Glass” windows made from recycled plastic bottles

“Glass” windows made from recycled plastic bottles

Solar panels donated a few years ago for heating water

The projects’ main focus is on plants, and on instilling a sense of ecological awareness and responsibility. Each student gets a small plot of land that they learn to take care of. Many of them have small vegetables growing. Through the act of farming, the children are taught the value of nature. Each plot es divided up into a section for “Pacha Mama” (Quechua for Mother Earth), a section for sharing (they bring the plants in that section back to the house they live in), and a section for personal gain where many of the children sell their crops or eat them themselves. They also have a greenhouse, where the students work in groups, and they get their own small plot for medicinal plants. Yanet and Norma encourage a visual and physical approach to learning, rather than having children sit and listen to lectures and copy down notes, they get to create and experience the process. ANIA encourages creativity and resourcefulness in children while teaching them about the importance of taking care of the earth.

Yllari showing us the greenhouse

We then got invited into the dining area to join the kids for their morning snack. It was a delicious juice/smoothie made out of bananas, papaya and milk. The children receive a morning snack, lunch, and were also given dinner when the internado was functioning, but now leave shortly after their lunch.

Modest but functional kitchen

Yum!

I then had a chance to sit and talk with Jenna Davidson, the volunteer I had placed there through Beyond Volunteering. She was from Canada and had spent almost 3 weeks at the Huacarpay school. She said most of her time was spent doing pretty intense manual labor in the gardens. The land is very rugged and needs a lot of work – she doesn’t know how the teachers and kids keep them going year round, and has a huge appreciation for the amount of work that has already gone into the project. She says it has been one of the most impactful and special experiences of her life, and hopes to continue her work in ecological studies, and hopefully pay another visit to ANIA and Peru again very soon.

Jenna Davidson – a Beyond Volunteering success story! :-)

I had personally never seen or heard of anything like ANIA or Tierra de Niños; to see such raw passion and dedication in action was incredibly moving…I left Huacarpay so inspired, and full of hope that one person, and one cause, can indeed make a huge impact. Muchas gracias Yllari, Yanet, and Jenna – your work is felt by many and I feel blessed to call you my new friends! :-)

Me, Yllari & Jenna in the Magic Garden

To learn more about Ania and the their projects throughout Peru and the world, please check out their website:

http://mundodeania.org

Note from the Universe…

Eye Care Day at Clinica Kausay Wasi


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This past week I had the pleasure of meeting the most amazing couple who founded and run a medical clinic here in the Sacred Valley in our neighboring town of Coya (Qoya). Their clinic is called Kausay Wasi, and they offer general medicine, dentistry, gynecology, obstetrics, operating facilities, and currently offer the only fully functioning x-ray lab in the entire Sacred Valley. In addition to their general care services that are offered 7 days a week, Kausay Wasi hosts between 12-15 visiting Volunteer U.S. Medical teams a year. Volunteer doctors have worked with Association Pro Salud Calca since 2003 and have operated on children with hearing difficulties, restored sight to elderly people blinded by cataracts, conducted orthopedic, cleft lip, palate, and reconstructive facial surgeries for burn and accident victims.

The founders, Guido and Sandy Del Prado, graciously invited the children and I to come and take part in the Optometry Campaign they were hosting this week in partnership with a wonderful group of expert optical care physicians from the United States. This group came as part of the non-profit, VOSH International, a non-profit dedicated to facilitating the provision and the sustainability of vision care worldwide for people who can neither afford nor obtain such care.

Casa De Milagros has always provided the best medical care possible to our children, however, funds and access to quality care are a constant challenge here in Peru. This was an incredible opportunity for the children, and for 10 soles ($3.50) each, they each received an expert eye exam, eye glass prescription, and free eyeglasses for those that needed them. I knew some of our children needed them, but was shocked that 9 of our kids left with brand new, much needed prescription eyeglasses.

One of our older boys, Belisario, was found to have an eye infection that the doctors said he might have had for quite some time, and was diagnosed as having an extreme light sensitivity. He was given some medication to clear up the infection, as well as 2 pairs of extra dark sunglasses to protect his sensitive eyes from the intense Andean sun. Each of the kids left with a brand new pair of sunglasses, and were very grateful for the amazing care and generosity from both Kausay Wasi staff and all of the wonderful VOSH volunteers.

On behalf of all of us at Casa De Milagros, MUCHAS GRACIAS!!! :-)

About Clinica Kausay Wasi:

Asociacion Civil Promotora de Salud Social Pro Salud Calca is a registered Peruvian non-governmental non-profit organization founded by Guido and Sandy Del Prado to provide basic health and dental care to thousands of Peru’s poorest people. Guido is a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer and former Peace Corps Director. Sandy is a former Peace Corps Volunteer and USAID Health Project Officer.

One of two fully-functional operating rooms at Kausay Wasi

Kausai Wasi provides General Medicine that is available at the Clinic seven days a week. They also offer Gynecological exams, Dental, Physical therapy Prosthetics General medicine are also available on a daily basis and pharmaceuticals are available at very low cost or provided free of charge to those who cannot afford to purchase them.

Over 100,000 low income patients have been provided with quality care over the past five years. Their General Practitioners see approximately 500 patients a week.

For more information, please visit their website at www.kausaywasi.org

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A Casa Homecoming

I’m home…

Officially landed here at Casa on Wednesday after a couple of weeks in Lima and on my Qoyllurit’i adventure

Was welcomed with warm and loving arms – the kids and staff have been so wonderful. The first day I arrived, Mama Yeni and Michael gathered a group to come and clean my house…I joined in and we spent a few hours wiping off cobwebs, dust, and unpacking my suitcases…at one point I looked up and noticed a beautiful painting, and smiled as I realized it was of Mama Kia and her dear friend and “sister”, Nikki. It was as if they were extending their arms and welcoming me home…;-)

In a lot of ways, it feels like I never left. Then I realize how much has changed since last time I lived here – two years ago exactly. So much life I’ve lived since then, so many wonderful people that have come into my life and so much growth…and then I look around here and see so much loss…

I have a huge list of to-do’s and a lot of work to do. Trying not to feel overwhelmed and let myself enjoy the experience – not let it feel so “heavy”…when I do start to feel the anxiety build I try to remind myself to just look up – take in the beauty and power of the “Apus” (Mountains) around me, the magic of the Sacred Valley skies, and the immense energy all around…not to mention the kids’ love…soak it in, let it fill me and give me strength.

Welcoming me “home”…

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