Project Summary: Peru Urubamba Footbridges & Water

Building a bridge in Qelqenca, Peru | Samantha Chen
Building a bridge in Qelqenca, Peru | Samantha Chen

Year/s: 2006, 2007, 2008

Achievements: From 2006-08 our community project travellers helped to construct a drinking water system including a water reservoir that connected the majority of houses in the village to fresh drinking water. Also during this time our community project travel participants helped to construct three footbridges that allow school children to cross the swollen rivers in safety.

Impact: The bridges that were built in and around the village of Qelqanqa enabled the school students to make safe passage to and from school. It also allowed livestock and adults of the community to cross the swollen river safely. The water reservoir and connecting pipelines to houses means that the community now has east and convenient access to clean water.

Participant Feedback:

"I dislike being grouped as a "tourist" and always seek to penetrate the shallower layers of first impressions and interactions to find authentic exchanges when I travel abroad. In search of such a unique experience, I went to Peru with World Expeditions to participate in a community service project in a tiny and remote village called, Quelqanqa that is hidden, without road access, within the glaciated peaks of the Urubamba mountain range.

Our group’s tasks consisted of two projects: creating a new reservoir to supply the village with clean water and building a bridge over the river. The rural village, as most its size and population, is only an epidemic, mudslide or earthquake away from evacuation – and these small preventative measures can mean the difference between extermination and preservation, of a people and culture.

Since Incan times, it’s been a tradition of Andean peoples to organize communal work parties called, “faenas.” Having felt heavily burdened by the kindnesses and services that our porters heaped upon us while on the trek, I was greatly relieved by the opportunity to work side-by-side, and ultimately FOR, those that woke us every morning serving tea and morning greetings. Our work party, composed of locals and foreigners alike, was much like the cluttered pile of odd-sized stones that we used to build the bridge: a funny and awkward combination that slowly but cohesively, took on a solid shape together.

There is an Andean value called, “ayni” which means reciprocity and refers to the exchange of kindness, knowledge and/or labor. We could call the completed work a "bridge" or "reservoir,” but its physical product was not nearly as important as its function as a channel. A group of strangers, via a simple united task, built a bridge connecting foreign peoples and cultures; a bridge that recognized some of our similarities and over which mutual admiration and respect was exchanged. I am very happy to borrow such a nice little word, “ayni,” to name our shared experience and call it both the essence and highlight of my adventure in Peru: the exchange of kindness -- between humans, nature, spirit and the environment."  - Christina Rivera, a participant on the 2007 project at Qelqanqa.

Thanks to: our friends at World Nomads for raising the funds ($USD3,007.68) for the purchase of the materials and wages for a local trades person on the 2007 project.
Community Projects, Thoughtful Travel, Responsible Travel Peru

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