How To : Discovering The Secret To Happiness In Cusco, Peru

By james juliette on 17/11/2016

Cusco is the oldest, constantly inhabited city in South America, full of cobbled streets, Inca relics and breathtaking colonial churches. I mean ‘breathtaking’ literally. At 3,399m above sea level climbing up the hilly streets to catch a glimpse of the city views leaves you pretty puffed out.

Despite Cusco’s rich tourist trade (2 million visitors every year) there remains an enormous amount of poverty as well as high rates of domestic violence, alcoholism and drug addiction. Aldea Yanapay is a community school in the city for disadvantaged children set up by the extremely charismatic ‘Papa Yuri’. The children attend state run schools during the day and at 3pm can come to Yanapay. There are several buy Office Professional Plus 2016 key classrooms running activities such as art, dance, yoga, reading, homework club and games which the children can attend for the first couple of hours.

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James and I spent our first couple of weeks running the games class. I discovered I like puzzles a lot and James became instantly popular by repeatedly winning at table football. Everyone wants ‘Profe James’ on their team whereas I was sacked three times in a row. Luckily for me and the children I spent my third week teaching yoga and dance.

After activities we all gather for the ‘Circle of Love’. The session is run by Yuri or one of the coordinators and is a chance for the children productkeysticker to discuss topics such as spirituality or Peruvian culture, sing traditional songs and generally express themselves in a warm and loving environment. As wishy washy as it may sound it’s a wonderful opportunity for the children, one I don’t think is emphasized enough in our society and helps build confidence, cultural appreciation and respect for others.

And even more importantly nowadays – the children are all engaged, conversing, listening without any sort of screen!

The day is rounded off with family time.

The children and volunteers are all members of different ‘families’ and we spend the designated time each day preparing for the show on Friday. Each week there is a different theme and each family will prepare a contribution to the end of week show based on this. So far at the shows I have sang a whole song in Spanish about Mother Earth (La Pachamama) and rapped about how wet and cloudy it is in England (again in Spanish). Meanwhile, James, seemed to be part of a broken home. His first family were adorable 5 year olds but he was unceremoniously moved to a family of older children who spent every session hiding behind curtains or fighting.

Some days have been more challenging than others. The kids have unbelievable amounts of energy and, as the focus at Yanapay is on freedom and expression rather than rigidity and discipline, the afternoons can get pretty hectic. Ok, more like a mad house with children tearing about, shouting and generally getting overexcited. But every day at school there is a moment which blows me away and reminds me why I am there and why Aldea Yanapay is such an important project.

For more information about Aldea Yanapay, go here.

To see more of our travels, check us out here.

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