Quechua Benefit: One Drop at a Time

By Mike Safley

A team of dentists set up shop in the home of Julio Barreda’s friends the Tejada’s on a narrow street two blocks off the main square in Macusani. On the last day of the mission the line of patients stretched around the block and up an icy side street. That same line had formed on the first day of the mission and it never got any shorter. It was 1996 and Quechua Benefit was completing its first mission to Peru.

The mission team packed to leave and the people stood resolutely in line, refusing to leave. The team was exhausted having worked 12 hours a day for 5 days but were morally conflicted about leaving so many poor Quechua people without caring for them. I expressed my regret to Don Julio who turned to me and said;

“The need in Peru is like a broken faucet: It never stops dripping”.

Things have not changed much in the 17 years that have followed, the lines still remain and there are always some needy souls that the team can’t see. I flashed back to that last day in Macusani when Dwight Bailey asked me to shut the door to the clinic in Corani this November, it was dark outside and the team hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We needed to head to the next town at 6:30 in the morning. All I could think about was that faucet, dripping drop by drop.

The next day as the truck bucked and shook off the road the shiny little drops of need changed to seemingly insignificant particles of compassion that flashed across my mind as I reflected on the essential role tha

t fate seemed to play in Quechua Benefits path to the present. I thought about what Mother Teresa said about the tiny acts of charity that somebody had dismissed as insignificant drops of water in an overwhelming ocean of need.

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”.

Quechua Benefit would have never come to be if Julio Barreda had not asked if there was anything the alpaca breeders in the United States could do for the needy in his hometown of Macusani. But the invisible hand did not rest there and Quechua Benefit would surely “be less” without many similar drops that you will find splashed on the pages below.


Stephanie Pope

Stephanie Pope has been donating to Quechua Benefit for many years. She sends a check almost every month some large and some as small as $11.00 but they always arrive and never require a request. We have exchanged a few emails over the years and I certainly knew her name when she signed up for the November mission but I did not have a face in mind. We met the first night in Arequipa just before leaving to the highlands. I thanked her for her generosity and asked about her life since coming to the United States. What she told me next set me back.

Stephanie is from Australia, she lived more than half her life there and was breeding suri’s when she decided to pick up and move to the U.S in June of 2005. A week before leaving Australia for the United States she was at Sunday church

service when a man she did not know walked up and handed her a folded piece of paper. Stephanie looked down at the paper and then looked up to speak to the man but he had disappeared.

As she unfolded the paper a $20.00 bill appeared. There was no message just Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 written in pencil. Stephanie opened her Bible and found the verse:

1 Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days. 2 Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.

She didn’t think much of the event that day other than it was rather odd. But as time went on she couldn’t get the bible verse out of her mind.

One day, not long after arriving in the U.S., she decided to commit to the literal meaning of the verse. She wanted to donate 70% of everything she earned to a worthy cause. She started out by giving away 10% of her income in addition to the 10% tithe she gave at church. Today she is giving away 30% of her income and will continue to increase that by 10% every year until she has reached her goal. She just needs to get the last of her 5 kids established and on their own.

Since making her first donation to Quechua Benefit many years ago she has become a major Casa Chapi benefactor and has sponsored a children’s cottage that is now home to 9 kids, built the office, sponsored the garage and a greenhouse. The checks just keep coming, one drop at a time.

The Millers

Dick Miller

Dick and Jane Millers story begins with two alpacas they won at lottery held at the local grange which is just down the road from where Julie and I live. Jane had asked if we could donate anything to the Master Gardeners Association fundraiser that she chaired. We met Jane when she taught one of the courses that are required for anyone like Julie and I who wanted to become a Master Gardner. We agreed to donate 2 gelded alpacas and told her they created great organic fertilizer, prized by the most discerning gardeners.

Dick and Jane fell in love with the two 6 month old alpacas who became Fito and Tito. Dick bought all the tickets he had money for in his wallet and then went home, emptied the cookie jar, and bought more. He decided they had to have that pair of alpacas. Not long after Dick won the drawing we became the source of all the answers to Dick’s questions about how to care for the new Miller family adoptees.

One thing led to another and Dick who speaks Spanish volunteered to be a translator on one of Quechua Benefits missions. Since that fateful day when the Millers became entirely irrational and bought those alpacas at a raffle, Dick has been on 5 missions, sponsored a children’s cottage at Casa Chapi and regularly sends hand written thank you notes to Quechua Benefits donors.

This year Dick arranged for his daughter Teresa’s professional video production company, Hitch Hiker Films, to accompany Quechua Benefit, free of charge, to Peru. The camera team of Andrew and Arron rolled 7 days of film that they will edit into a documentary and several short pieces about Quechua Benefit and Casa Chapi.

Dick will be 74 next year and he has already signed up for the November 2014 mission.

Dr. Dwight and Deborah Bailey

Dr. Dwight Bailey and his wife Deborah are alpaca breeders who had heard of Quechua Benefit when they approached me at the Futurity several years ago. They asked if we ever did medical missions. I said, “no but we would like to”. At the time the charity had done only dental missions. I assured Dwight that we would be happy to organize the trip logistics but we had not a clue about how to conduct a medical mission. Dwight who has done multiple medical missions in Africa and India volunteered to lead the effort but said he would need some time to put a team together.

I went about my business over the next few hours and as the day began to fade I saw Dwight making his way around the pens to where I had finished judging. He was excited to tell me that he had filled out the team, Dr. Rhonda Deschner a pediatrician had volunteered, Ursula Munro RN a nurse was on board and Dr. Jim Anderson an orthopedic surgeon had agreed to sharpen up his general practice skills and make the trip.

Not long after the first medical mission was completed Dwight and Debbie began working with Don and Julie Skinner on plans for the Snowmass Health Center at Casa Chapi. Today the multi-purpose clinic is built and paid for, serving patients, housing volunteers and providing school rooms for the kids at Casa Chapi.

Rhonda, Dwight and Ursula all eventually became Quechua Benefit board members and after more than 5 medical missions and more than 10,000 poor Quechua receiving free medical care the drops keep adding to the ocean.

Drop after drop

The drops of generosity that continue to accumulate are much like Julio Barreda’s proverbial faucet they seem to never stop.

Julie struck up a conversation with an optometrist, Dr. Tom Barreto, on a garden tour who mentioned that he headed a team from Pacific University that prescribed glasses to people who could not afford them in far off places. Julie described the Quechua Benefit missions and one thing led to another. Since then Amigo’s has prescribed 1000’s of kids and older adults glasses on missions to Peru sponsored by Quechua Benefit.

I remember sending a Quechua Benefit email out late one evening saying that we had diagnosed a large number of cataract on our recent optical mission by Amigos Eye Care and would love to sponsor cataract surgery mission in the Peruvian highlands. The next morning my inbox had a response from Dr. Ian Davison the President of the Australian Alpaca Association saying that if I had not yet found a group of surgeons that he could put a team together from Australia and all he needed to know was how to proceed. The InSight Peru cataract team was formed and today after three cataract missions 100’s of previously blind or sight impaired Quechua can see. Another drop in the ocean.

In October, Margie Ault from AOBA called and said the board of directors were looking for a way to offer Alpaca farmers an opportunity on AOBA’s national farm day to raise funds for a Peruvian relief effort to help the victims of the terrible winter freeze in the highland alpaca breeding areas. Quechua Benefit quickly coordinated a fund raising drive with AOBA that raised $7290.59 from participating farms including a large donation of 2500 Euros f

rom the German Alpaca association AAeV, headed by Herbert Ruch.  Another large donation of $2,000 was received from Re:Action Foundation of San Francisco coordinated by Phyl Clempson a board member of AOBA. These funds purchased more than 1000 articles of warm clothing that were distributed in the heart of the disaster area in Corani, Peru by a medical team led by Ursula Munro and Dwight Bailey in November 2013.

These are but a few of the stories about the drops of generosity and compassion that find their way to women and children in remote areas of Peru. At some point the drops became a trickle and we hope and pray that in the near future that they will become a small stream feeding into that Ocean of good deeds that Mother Teresa says cherishes every drop.


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