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HEALING PERU’S POVERTY PANDEMIC: OPENING SAILS TO THE WINDS OF QUECHUA DREAMS

In every child there grows at least one life dream, but not every child has the opportunity to grow

into that dream. With every second child in the world living in poverty, there is an exceeding

number of youth unable to pursue their life's full potential.

[A child of the Pitukiska community looks curiously at a textile financial spreadsheet. Photo by Mike Graeme.]

Thanks to global capitalism, poverty is pandemic; we are all wound up in it. Our globe gets woven

in ways that polarize wealth, leaving some so rich that if they had the generosity they could feed

whole countries, while others are so poor they are unable to feed even themselves.

According to the Rural Poverty Portal, "The poorest of the poor in Peru are in the arid Andean

highlands, where a large majority of the indigenous Quechua and Aymara communities live below

the poverty line."



In 2006, while living in Ollantaytambo, a Quechua community in the Cusco region of the

Peruvian Andes, Ashli Akins started laying down a solution—an ingredient of the medicine for

Peru's poverty pandemic—and founded the international charitable organization, Mosqoy, which

means “dream” in Quechua.

[Ashli Akins listens to the women of Parobamba. Photo by Mike Graeme]

It all started when she began opening her ears to listen to the dreams of the community members.



They spoke of maintaining their ancient textile practice and other cultural traditions; they shared

their desire for economic prosperity and to be active participants in their futures. Some youth

wanted to be chefs and others lawyers. Some wanted to learn computer science and others to lead

tours through their ancestral territory.



However, Ashli learned that despite the region's growing tourism and development sectors the

economic rug was being pulled out from under this community’s feet, preventing them from an

equal opportunity to benefit from the boom and sending them into deeper poverty.


[A next-generation Quechua youth in the community of Pitukiska. Photo by Mike Graeme.]

But how exactly are the people of Ollantaytambo slipping into poverty? This question was posed to

Yolanda (a pseudonym chosen to protect her privacy), a Quechua youth who received a sponsorship

through Mosqoy’s Youth Program in 2012. Her answer was lack of education.



“Because of the lack of knowledge, some people don’t find jobs easily,” she said. “Some don’t

educate themselves; they never got education...They have not even entered the door of the school,

never, and that’s why they can’t defend themselves, they are scared to ask because they’re not sure

if they’re speaking [Spanish] well...that’s why there is poverty” (Lisa & Bosma, 2014, p.31).



When asked why Quechua youth don’t receive education in the first place, Yolanda's answer was

the precise reverse—they can’t afford it. Yolanda points to the vicious cycle presently plaguing

Indigenous communities in the region. Without access to education, poverty is a near-sure bet, and

without the funds to access education…well, you get the point.