Welcome to the archives. This page is mostly things from our old site, memories, and the like. Feel free to check it out!
Our first floor plan! It hasn't changed much.
- We hope to leave a step-by-step plan for others to follow along with if not get ideas for their own project from. Therefore, here is the Peru Project, broken down step by step into footprints.
- First, we first sent out emails and Facebook messagesto everyone and anyone. Naturally, we also followed up on any leads given to us.
- We also started to brainstorm about churches, schools, and community groups which may be helpful to us at some point along this journey.
- We presented our first power point show of our trip to Huaripampa at the Steven's home to about 35 people. This was a big feat for Renata who didn't like public speaking. We are lined up to speak to the Rotary club this fall.
- We then set up a Twitter account, found here, so that we could keep our followers updated on our progress.
- Certainly, we shared our enthusiasm about the project with everyone. Amazing connections occurred as a result!
- Once we built our website, we posted the link anywhere we could think of.
- We tried to get airline points, flights, and shots donated before we left. All were declined, but we tried.
- Fund raising brought art raffles, popsicle sales and collection bins, and partnerships with businesses like Stevens Holistic Wellness Centers, Ye Old Waffle Shop, & Ten Thousand Villages in Chapel Hill.
- We talked to elementary school students to share our passion about the project. Morris Grove Elementary in Chapel Hill and Triangle Day School in Durham are now passionate about the project, too.
- A business plan was then developed with our goals, needs and project overview so that we can give possible donors a full view on what we intend to do.
- A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization proposal is also in the works for a larger, more broad organization to oversee the Peru Project. With this, we can solicit larger donations.
- Business donations and grants will be pursued when we receive our 501(c) (3) status.
- We made our initial visit to Huaripampa in late December, to get a better feel for the town, hear community needs, as well as look into the specifics of building in the country. This was the most amazing part of the project and gives us great inspiration to carry on.
- We got to meet with the children and their families to share our vision and passion about the project during a hot chocolate gathering in the town.
- In order to travel, we had gotten necessaryvaccinations such as typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A, Yellow Fever and the flu shot. Due to elevation, we didn't have to get malaria pills.
- However, we didn't take altitude seriously until we got sick. Take medicine with you if you're going to a place of high altitude and make sure you have enough! We found out that drugstores around Peru sold the medication with no need for prescription, which saved us.
- Renata also learned Spanish to survive in Peru.
- After visiting, she decided that doing her homework was more important than she would have thought.
- Renata's picture book, Gracie, the Blue Lacy, was translated into Spanish by DTS, a translation company. We showed the book to the kids and tried to excite them about reading. www.dtstrans.com
- After about a year we started to ask for help! People have been offering to run with projects or invent their own and we listened. It feels so good to have more helpful hands.
- Then, we planned our biggest event yet--an art auction! We got a great venue (Fleet Feet Gallery in Chapel Hill) and donations from over fifty artists. Paired with an online auction, the event was a great success.
- For this event, artist Isti Kaldor created a unique piece of art, which we raffled off for $25 a ticket. (Definitely a good buy!)
- Pairing with Team for Kids charity and Dr. Angelina Stevens, the Peru Project hosted a second art auction shortly after the first. This one was smaller scale and hosted at a wine bar--great fun!
- The Peru Project also attended other sales around town, selling bracelets, jewelry and other items to raise funds.
- The Peru Project then BROKE GROUND in Huaripampa, Peru, in January of 2011.
- Currently, they are working to raise the roof of the library, and then to fill it with books!
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "You do not have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." So we continue, one step at a time.
Our first thoughts on the project: 2009
Everyone always asks us why. Why Peru? Why a library? And even, why do you care? To some of these questions, I can't present clear answers; to others, I have too many to list.
In the seventh grade, I remember sitting through a presentation in my world history class about Africa. It started with the culture, history, and traditions of people there, but soon came to the issues of HIV/AIDS, poverty, and other widespread human rights issues commonly associated with the continent. At such a young and impressionable age, it hit me: not everyone in this world has the opportunities I have. I came home that very day and told my mother I'd go to Africa one day. While that time in my life has yet to come, my scope has since widened to see the need in continents and regions that I may otherwise have overlooked. There are so many people in this world that need our help, and, as Margaret Mead puts it: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Certainly, this is not a project geared towards Africa, in any way. The project simply didn't manifest itself as such. It emerged in a interesting fashion. After having butted heads for quite some time over where our previously planned mother-daughter trip would be, my mom and I somehow reached an agreement that our money could be much better spent than in tourist stores in Paris, buying hundred Euro pairs of shoes and overpriced plastic magnets of the Eiffel tower. I'm still amazed at the fact that I convinced my mother to give up her plans of sitting in street side cafes on the streets of France writing and enjoying the 'finer things.'
It came together quite well. My mom has a passion for books and children, which makes the building of a library perfect for her. Personally, I was just about up for anything . From donating to Care, Int. (which empowers women across the globe,) and Kiva (which provides micro-loans for entrepreneurs in developing countries,) it had been a dream of mine for a long time to do something bigger.
There are a couple aspects about this project that I'm particularly interested in, from a social justice standpoint. In tenth grade, I wrote a paper for an English class to which my assignment was simply to research and write about something I felt passionate about. I started to look into literacy and ended up with a ten page essay about the literacy rates in some of the world's most impoverished and oppressed countries and how that related to the standards of life in those areas of the globe. Ever since then, I've been deeply interested in improving literacy and education rates around the world, but until now, I haven't had the outlet to really do that.
The building of this community center will bring the opportunity of education and the promise of hope to this community. As I began to realize the fact through the process, we could really change something for at least one person, or maybe even a whole town, I decided I had no other option but to give it my all.
As my mom and I sat down to decide where we wanted to build our library, we considered several things. For one, my mother did not want to go to Africa. From there, we started looking at Spanish speaking countries, specifically Peru. My mom and younger brother had read a children's book from a kid's meal earlier that day which had to do with school systems around the world. Peru was featured, and as odd as it sounds, that's what gave us the inspiration to pursue Peru. From there, we consulted my mom's art teacher, who is a Peruvian native. It seemed a good idea to ask him which areas of the country would be safest for two women on their own, traveling a foreign country trying to build a community center. He told us that his own hometown, Huaripampa, was in need of a library itself. From there, the location was solidified.
At first, the location didn't matter incredibly much. Since choosing our location though, I've fallen in love with Huaripampa. I still believe that when it comes down to it, people are people no matter where they're from. If someone would benefit from a library, or even just some hope, and we have the time and dedication to get that done, then it simply does not matter where we choose to do our work. Anyone who could draw benefits from these sorts of services wholeheartedly deserves them.
As suddenly as the project began, everything started to fall into place. Signs came out of nowhere, in such rapid succession it's hard to even recount. All I know is that it was all very clear; we were meant to do this project. In the end, I'm not even sure that we picked the project; it's more that it picked us.
Researching about Peru has opened my eyes to a part of the world who's beauty I would never have known of before. I always thought of Peru as a tourist destination, of sorts, with Machu Picchu and old Incan ruins. But there are so many towns in the Andes mountains filled with the most deserving, hardworking people, all of which I wish I could be privileged to meet. I don't think we could have chosen a better country.
Just to present an idea on the life in the town of Huaripampa, Peru, it is a small town with a population roughly a little above one thousand, from what we've gathered. Therefore, it's a town where everyone knows everyone else. Agriculture is a main source of jobs, and men and women will work in the fields all day for very low amounts of money. There is no high school in the area, and students must go to school in a different town if they want an education above the sixth grade. It's also mountainous, and very cold. There is no central heating in homes and that showers are generally cold water. The financial and physical aspects of this lifestyle often leaves little time and money left over for education.
Before traveling to Huaripampa, I thought that the point of our project was to help the town's residents free themselves from a lifestyle that, to the outside world, seems incredibly difficult. My perspectives certainly shifted, however, when I first laid eyes on the town and had the opportunity to meet the families who call it home. Huaripampa is a beautiful town; one where life is so different from the life I know that I am filled with the need to protect it, to shield the town from the outside world that might not see it's beauty. The people are simply gorgeous, inside and out, and bring forth a love that one could not find in my community. Everyone relies on their families and on their neighbors, creating a support system completely unique to the one I know. It is with new wisdom that I fell in love with Huaripampa and the Huaripampinos.
I have found in Peru a new family and a new community. We met some of the most welcoming, accepting, loving people I have ever known and fell into a lifestyle of support and care. There is nothing that could make me desert them in this project.
Plans for our library/community center continue to grow, and our goals are very high. We'd like to incorporate not only reading, but also visual art and music into the center, as well as providing a space for groups to meet in a spare room.
Through building this community center in Huaripampa, we also plan on setting up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that will first cover this project and later branch out to fill the needs we see in the future. This is the biggest gift anyone could have given me. Being the founder of my own nonprofit agency is something I had deemed as nearly impossible. From here, I hope to go on to many more projects of this type as they present themselves to me, and that is the most exciting prospect of it all.
And honestly, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We'd gone over all the tiny details, trying to keep a record of everything we think of, so that when the time came, nothing would go wrong. However, things still did and they probably always will. No altitude sickness, worries, tears or stress could hold us back, because with a project of this type, we can only expect the unexpected. We are no more than the average mother and daughter working together to get something done, and we have no expertise in libraries, building, or humanitarian work at all.
But one thing is certain: the two of us with the community behind us can do this. We have the passion and there is no stopping us now. We're ready to learn as we go and to make more mistakes and scramble to fix them. When we come out of this, not only will we look back on our work with such an immense amount of joy I cannot even imagine, but hopefully we will have also left footprints for others to follow in the set-up of a similar project.
This project is already arising as one of the most important endeavors I've taken on in my life. It comes with more responsibility than I ever could have imagined, but has also filled me with such a hope and joy. I have had experiences that taught me what nothing else in life could. My mom has given up so much to give this to me. It's the ultimate act of service to me as an individual as well as to this community of people we've never met. I've always known she loves me and would go to the ends of the earth to support me, and this truly proves it all. In the end, I could never thank her enough.
I am so excited about this project, so proud that I can call it my own, and so grateful to all those who have supported and will support us, both in the community and in my family. The nature of educational centers such of this one is so profound, because we'll never know the extent of our work. We will never know how many people we touch. And if even one person enters that library and leaves with a new hope, then every single second will be worth it to me.
I am deeply blessed to be a part of something so extraordinary.
It all began the night I went upstairs to discuss our mother/daughter trip to Paris that Kyla and I had planned since she was in middle school. Kyla told me that she no longer wanted to take that trip; she wanted to go to Africa and save a life. She also reminded me that she still wanted a non-profit business.
There was something serious in her voice that night. Knowing Kyla's dedication to helping others, her long term interest in Africa, and her numerous "odd comments for a child" over the years about having a non-profit organization, I understood something. This was not a passing fad... and Kyla would drive me crazy if I forced her to go to Paris. I also intuitively felt something bigger was happening here. I sensed that it was important for us as women to follow this inspiration, to believe in the power of one or two, and to trust our intuition. Since I felt Africa was too challenging for me, I said, "Do you think you could save a life in a different way in a different country?"
A passionate conversation followed and before I knew it I was agreeing to do a service project in a Spanish speaking country, since Kyla speaks Spanish. Then we came up with the idea to combine two of our passions: books and helping others, by building a library.
I told Kyla that we would have to learn everything involved in creating a non-profit business, building a library, raising funds, and whatever else we don't know that we don't know, together-- and then she can take what she has learned from this experience, have her non-profit business for the future, and go on to Africa or wherever she is called to go in her life.
Why Peru? That very day, Aidan's Chick-Fil-A®meal had a free picture book inside, and it happened to be about school children around the world. I had shared the story with the third graders around the lunch table and we spontaneously talked about what it might be like in Peru. I was still touched that moment at school and given the conversation we were having, I shared the story with Kyla. We both agreed that Peru was the new destination. Fittingly, that's how we chose the site for the new library--from a children's book!
Kyla and I came downstairs and shared our new plan with the family and everyone responded like it was the most natural thing. I reminded my husband, Blair, that we knew nothing about building a library and now was the time to talk us out of it, but he told us that we'd learn what we needed to learn and that we could do it. Our family was totally behind us!
For some reason that night the thought never occurred to me that this might be too big a task, or that we were crazy to even think about doing this, or that we might not succeed. I just don't know how articulate how right building this library feels, or the surreal way we came to the conclusion that we were the ones meant to build it. It's just meant to be.
I asked my Peruvian art teacher, David Sovero, if he could help us pick a safe town in Peru that might need a library. As it turned out, his hometown of Huaripampa needed a library and he offered to help us make connections.
I know my strengths and weaknesses and building a library in another country is not what I would have thought I'd be doing this last year before Kyla goes to college and starts her new life. But I'm ready to learn whatever I need to to do this.
The thought of seeing a child's eyes light up while reading a book in Huaripampa inspires me. It's ironic, or another "coincidence", but it was a children's picture book that taught me about Peru. If one child reads a book and is transported to another world, real or imaginary, is inspired to dream, or is taught something new like I was...wow, then this project is so worth it to me.
I know that Kyla and I will never regret taking this risk and going into the unknown, trusting that we're doing the right thing for someone we will probably never meet, nor will we ever know the impact of us following this whisper, our idea. We don't know where we'll end up, or how we'll get there, but we're taking the journey anyway.
From that fateful night where our mother-daughter trip turned from Paris to Peru, amazing people all over the world coincidentally showed up at the perfect time with words of encouragement or amazing offers of help. This library is so meant to be!
Fearless, I am not! When motionless one day, I sat in my car outside of Whole Foods and begged the Universe for a sign. Nothing happened! Then I popped the lid off my Honest Tea and under the cap it read:
"Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to happen. It's not." -Dr. Seuess, The Lorax
Another children's book! Okay, You got me. I'm all in. 100%!