Saturday, February 27, 2010

Filming and Updates from Peru

This weekend we were lucky enough to have David Francis with us. David is a documentary film maker and had contacted us to offer his support in documenting the devastating effects of the floods on communities in the Sacred valley. Leander, David and I met up with our driver Eddy (Carlos's younger brother) on a very wet and cold morning and headed to off to Urubamba to buy food for the people of Paucarbamba, the small community we are supporting between Urubamba and Ollantaytambo.

On our way we stopped by the river Vilnacota to film the effects of the floods just outside Urubamba. Rubble, broken down houses and submerged cars remained as people were still working to salvage their possessions and clear the damage. People from these area had been temporarily "housed" in tents in a football field. We stopped to speak to the people and were dismayed to discover that the tents that had been provided by the Civil defence were leaking and sanitation facilities were situated in a sunken area in the field. As it was still raining and the Sacred Valley is still experiencing its rainy season we struggled to understand the logic.

After filming some of the people's experiences in Urubamba we then stopped by the market to buy the food from our shopping list with the money donated from the Bullfrogs football tournament.

When we arrived at the first community, Paucarbamba Arriba, we encountered people who had headed down from the second community, Paucarbamba Muyoc. On speaking to a community leader we discovered that the some priests had donated a number of mattresses which were about to be allocated to those displaced by the floods. The mattresses were being kept in a storage facility which was also where they were keeping the food. Unfortunately this storage facility was right by the train tracks in close proximity to the river.

We voiced our concern via the community president and then travelled to the upper community, Muyoc, to speak with one of the "damnificados" about his experience. Geraldo, told us that much of the aid which is being donated to the flood victims of Paucarbamba is not reaching the upper community where he is living with his family. Eddy encouraged him to speak to the Vice President about this. Unfortunately the Vice President wasn't in Paucarbamba as sadly his brother has gone missing in Quillabamba and he was out searching for his body.

We delivered half of the food which we had purchased at the market and realised that it was true, the upper community had very little in comparison with the lower community who had their storage cupboard full of food and other donations.

Geraldo took us to see where he was living with his family in leaking tents and we encountered our first mini cuy farm in his kitchen. Geraldo then took us to where his home used to be and David filmed him telling us about when the floods arrived and took away his home..

Back at the lower community the sun was out and we joined the community in a snack of Choclo (sweetcorn) and cheese. The people were waiting for the mattresses to be handed out and were making their way back to the upper community carrying them by hand. A number of volunteers had arrived from Cusco who offered to stay and help carry the mattresses. We then continued on to Ollantaytambo to show David the remains of the community of Huayronkoyoccpampa, just outside Ollantaytambo.

Leander and I had worked in the community with the Bullfrogs volunteers a few weeks earlier and were pleasantly surprised to discover that hardly anything remained. The church, which was flooded and falling down, had been razed to the ground and all the houses cleared and salvaged. Thankfully, a week before, the community of Ollantaytambo had come together to help move roof tiles, salvage wood and clear the space alongside the Huayronkoyoccpampa people. Apparently nearly 1000 people have been involved in the salvage operation, including Eddy.

With about 2 hours of film recorded we headed into Ollantaytambo to review the day. We still needed to speak to the community leaders to find out how exactly we could help them. Watch this space!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Campeonato de futbol

On a very warm and sunny day we set off gathering up Team Yanapay from the Hostal Magico to the Collegio de San Jose on the other side of Cusco. Amanda and Alex had valiantly got up much earlier to help Team Bullfrogs get everything from DJ equipment to crates of beer from the bar to the ground. When they arrived everyone pitched in to set up our makeshift bar and food stall for the day. All proceeds were going to support the Damnificados so everyone was tasked to sell, sell, sell. In true stereotypical form, the girls each assigned themselves roles as food preparers, money takers and beer getters whilst the boys warmed up for their first match, which also happened to be the first of the day.

As the draw had been held the night before in Bullfrogs, the remaining 11 teams trickled in time for their games but by midday, Yanapay kicked off first and the campenoato was off and running. A mix of skills, nationalities and footwear (Kevin opting to play barefoot rather than flip flops) the team managed to hold their own until finally losing 8-6.

In the meantime the girls felt the rush as the bar was inundated by hungry players and supporters requesting Parillas (burgers) and Choripan (hotdogs) as well as plenty of beer and gasiosas (Coca Cola). The sun was beating down but the girls kept on task with the aid of an umbrella taking it in turns to cheer on the Yanapay boys.

Yanapay's second game was more of a story of success in part due to the arrival of Jose and of course the skill of our two Argentinian ringers, sorry I mean, friends consolidating the efforts of the European and US contingent. The international collaboration led to a resounding victory 5-1.

The next, and unfortunately final, game for Yanapay was against Team Bullfrogs, the creative sparks and co-organisers of the event. The teams seemed evenly matched were it not for some questionable decisions by the referee (or is that the taste of sour grapes?) which eventually led to a Bullfrogs victory 9-7.

The next stage in the competition was the dreaded penalty shootout. Not a great experience for Team Yanapay who were, like many an England team, knocked out at a crucial stage of the competition. Still, the boys could be pleased with their performance and could now relax with a couple of cold beers and enjoy the rest of the football.

Bullfrogs bowed out in the semi final and Hostal Pariwana went onto win the championship.

The campeonato now over, Bullfrogs and Yanapay, friends once again, packed up and headed home. The night would continue back at the bar with a victory drink for all.

Mysmallhelp would like to offer their heartfelt thanks to everyone at Bullfrogs for creating and organising a great event for their fellow Peruvians who have lost everything. “Los Damnifcados” Houses, clothing, school books and treasured possessions all gone after the floods of Sunday 24th January 2010 in the region of Cusco.

The campeanato de futbol raised 660 soles (approximately £150) which has been donated to Casa Hogar del Sol to provide food to the flood victims ofPaucarbamba.

We still need your help providing food, shelter and support to flood victims, many of which are still homeless and with limited opportunity to provide an income for their family. You can donate through our website

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Back to Paucarbamba

George, Cathy, Amanda, Alex, Carlos and I, along with some Peruvian friends, took along the regular food delivery to the community of Paucarbamba today. We are currently providing food for this community which is delivered 3 times per week.

As ever the community were pleased to see us and as we drove up lots of people were working on salvaging items from their houses to assist with the rebuild.

The comedor we provided is being used and it made me chuckle to see the meal times pinned to the front wall.

We then spent lots of time speaking with the people of the community to try and understand what they need to get themselves back on their feet and to make themselves self sufficient on the coming months, easing their dependence on the food line.

We have lots of things to think about and organisations to approach. Watch this space! George, Cathy, Amanda, Alex, Carlos and I, along with some Peruvian friends, took along the regular food delivery to the community of Paucarbamba today. We are currently providing food for this community which is delivered 3 times per week. As ever the community were pleased to see us and as we drove up lots of people were working on salvaging items from their houses to assist with the rebuild. The comedor we provided is being used and it made me chuckle to see the meal times pinned to the front wall. (insert photo) We then spent lots of time speaking with the people of the community to try and understand what they need to get themselves back on their feet and to make themselves self sufficient on the coming months, easing their dependence on the food line. (insert photo) We have lots of things to think about and organisations to approach. Watch this space!">

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hunting for volunteers

After a catch up phone call with Peter and Steve at Peros to update them on our news, Leander and I are meeting at a Bar in Cusco where we are hoping to organise van loads of volunteers to help with the salvage operation in the SacredValley at the weekend. It’s vitally important to salvage items from peoples houses before more rain comes. We are hoping to get 100’s of people to help people like Marissa and her family and hope that when people see the situation with their own eyes, they will also want to get involved in the support effort.

Hopefully lots of people will turn up!

Photos: the community in Huayronkoyocoyocpampa where we hope to provide volunteers to help with the salvage effort

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Update from the Sacred Valley

George, Cathy, Carlos and I headed back into the Sacred Valley and to the community of Paucarbamba about 2 hours by car from Cusco. On route we stopped at San Pedro market to buy meat and bread for the damnificados (those affected by the flooding) and to buy more wood to construct tables and benches.

When we arrived we dropped food at a community in lower Paucarbamba and Carolos showed us the proposed site for a second comedor to benefit this community. As ever the women were busy cooking lunch in a lean-to and children were playing outside.

After this we drove up to the higher community of Paucarbama where we were all delighted to see the comedor (that we had built on Saturday) was being put to excellent use. The gas hob had been moved in and the women were busy peeling hundreds of potatoes to be used for lunch. It was obvious that more tables and seats were needed- lucky Carlos had instructed us to buy more wood!

It was obvious that the Peruvians were far more skilled at woodwork than us, so we decided to head back to Huayronkoyocoyocpampa to see if we could offer our strength for the salvage work.

Here we came across a family, desperately digging out their home. The women were using pick axes to free up the wood beams that could be salvageable, and Cathy, George and I quickly formed a chain to move the wood to safety where it could be stored before it is needed.

The family had lost everything. They had spent years constructing a 2 story house, from money that Roberto had made working on construction sites in the nearby town. However, as with most of the houses here, it was made from adobe bricks which were unable to stand the quantity and force of the water.

The family are living in the local school and have no idea of where they are going to rebuild and how they are going to find the money. Luckily their small piece of land where they grow maize for domestic consumption and to sell was unaffected, so they should be able to generate a little bit of cash from this, but obviously not enough to rebuild.

Flood Damage in Cusco

On Tuesday 2nd February we met Nelly Munoz to travel to her district to see the damage caused by the river breaking its bank on Sunday 24th January.

We walked down the first street which was still damp and sodden with mud. A few people were attempting to remove parts of the homes that had fallen down and picking through the remains of the houses. We asked to take photos and explained that this was necessary in order to raise awareness with our friends and contacts in the UK and around the world. At first the people were reluctant, unsure whether we were genuinely there to help. Nelly explained that tragically there had been few opportunist individuals that had looted what was left of the people's possessions in the neighbourhood.

We then walked down another street where the effects of the flooding were quite apparent. The walls around the buildings showed watermarks up to two feet and there was evidence of the walls cracking due to damp conditions. A woman came to greet us, Victoria, who was kind enough to show us how the flood had affected her home. Her modest home was completely damp and uninhabitable. The floors were covered in mud and the walls again showed evidence of cracking. Victoria told us that she and her husband and their 3 children were living in a nearby school which was currently under construction.

Before visiting the school we stopped by Nelly's own house, again, we could see how the flood had affected the walls and structure of the building. There was concern that the structural integrity of the buildings affected by the flooding had been compromised and that further homes may be at risk of collapse. We then moved on to the school to see where the people who had been displaced were living. The entrance to the school was via a plank of wood placed over a small stream of filthy water. We walked into the main school yard where workmen were working on completing the schools construction. Victoria had decided to accompany us and she introduced us to her children and the children of her neighbours.

Victoria then took us to her temporary accommodation. A classroom which could accommodate around 25 children which was currently occupied by 5 families. Victoria and her neighbours had saved a few possessions and there was a small camping size stove for cooking. We were also taken around a few further classrooms where other families were living. Although we could not identify precise numbers we could see that most of the classrooms were occupied. Sanitation appear scant. We could not see any showers or places set up for bathing and washing, in fact we could only see two portaloos, clearly insufficient for the number of families and small children occupying the space. Nelly then explained to us that the families would only be able to stay until March as the school would be opening. We asked what would happen then but no-one seemed to know.

The Peruvian government and regional government have promised aid to the people affected by the flooding however our visit took place over a week after the flood and we could not see any aid that had been providing. Noone save a few of the residents were attempting to clean up the area and no tents, blankets or places to get fresh water could be seen. If aid has been promised it appears that it has not reached this area, one of the poorer areas of the city of Cusco.

MySmallHelp want to support the people of Cusco as well as that of the Sacred valley. Not only is money needed for providing immediate aid in the form of sanitation, fresh water and cooking equipment but also in the longer term money is needed to help rebuild the homes and strengthen the structures those that have been affected in order to offer the people like Victoria, a safe and clean space in which to raise their family.

Please help in any way you can...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Meetings in Cusco

Monday was spent getting organised after the weekend and having meetings.

We met with Carlos, our Peruvian contact and with George and Cathy of Desana Inc. George and Cathy founded and run a charity which supports projects in Peru and Russia. When they heard about the floods they flew straight down from the USA to help and brought with them dollars to buy food and wood for the community of Paucarbamba.

Our meeting was to discuss whether it would be better to pool their resources and ours to ensure that we are benefiting communities in the right way and the decision was made that yes, we should. We also agreed that our purpose is get the community of Paucarbamba to be self sufficient again and therefore research needs to be undertaken over the next few weeks to find the best way of doing this.

Putting money to work

Thanks to a stirling effort by Bullfrogs nightclub in Cusco, a few thousand soles were raised from one of their nights to put towards the efforts of Asociacion Casa Hogar del Sol , a project founded and run by Carlos Gibaja Tapia. Priorities for Carlos were to create a covered communal space for the homeless members of the Sacred Valley communities to be able to cook and eat, providing an end-point for the food lines that he had already been set up. Solutions for housing would be shortly to follow, replacing the crowded Ministry of Defense tents that had been distributed in limited amounts around the affected communities. Thanks to connections with Leander, founder of the UK charity MySmallHelp that was acting with Carlos to receive donations from overseas, our presence was requested to assist with the building of a comedor, or cantina.

We met Carlos early on Saturday morning and shot down into the Valley in a hired truck to pick up some wood to build the frame of the design that he had been drawing up over the previous couple of days. A straightforward timber frame affair with tarpaulin sheet walls and a corrugated plastic roof, it wasn't going to win any design awards, but it was relatively cheap, quick to put up and apparently very durable. A similar design had been installed in a community a few years back and was still standing to date.

We arrived in the community and got to work straight away, the community members levelling out an empty patch of ground with picks and shovels, shoring up the downhill side of the plot with stones. Throughout the day I was very impressed with the skill that the locals showed in everything they did, shaving paper thin layers off wooden beams with unwieldy picks and knocking 7" nails into wood with a couple of blows after I'd bent a handful trying to do the same job, cursing for all I was worth.

Lou, Carlos, the locals and I worked together for about 3 hours until a couple of trucks rolled up stuffed with volunteers from Bullfrogs, Hostal Pariwana and a Cusco-based social project that Lou worked for, Aldea Yanapay. Despite the enthusiasm of the volunteers, there were more hands than tools and tasks and progress actually slowed for a while as people charged around the crowded plot trying desperately to find ways to assist.

Eventually a debris clearing operation was found a little further down the valley and half the mob left in the trucks to pull building materials out of flattened houses. The pace of work picked up again, and soon the comedor was taking shape, as Lou and I committed our efforts to make a table for the comedor. After our cheerful construction of a frame that could only be described as 'functional', idle locals descended upon our efforts to finish the job, resulting in a pretty decent looking piece of furniture.

We finished the comedor in about 8 hours of solid work, and as night fell the last nail was hammered into place. The structure was christened with a meal from the food which had the result of donations from two lovely Americans, George and Kathy (founders of simple but wholesome fodder of noodles, potatoes and meat. Beer bottles arrived to toast the efforts of the construction crew, and by the light of the single bulb suspended from the rafters of the roof, Carlos thanked all present for their efforts and instructed them to make the most of their new facility.

It was a fascinating experience in which to be involved, and very interesting to see the interaction of volunteers with the work effort of the locals; there's a great deal to be said for striking the balance between helping aid recipients to build their own facility, but giving them the lead in taking ownership of the resource that should be theirs for years to come.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cusco Emergency Appeal

Cusco Emergency Appeal, from the founder of Mysmallhelp, Leander Hollings.

Mysmallhelp is now working in Cusco, Peru together with the Associacion Casa Hogar del Sol, Aldea Yanapay and Desana Inc to provide emergency aid to the thousands of people that have been affected by the recent floods and landslides.

It is difficult to measure exactly how many people have been directly and indirectly affected by the recent disaster. It has been quoted in Cusco local news that up to 10,000 people in the Cusco region have lost their homes. Whether or not these estimations are correct is irrelevant. What is clear, is that the recent disaster has resulted in the need for aid for uncountable people and your small help can really make a difference!

The floods have damaged thousands of acres of crop land, washed out about a dozen bridges and damaged several highways.

On Saturday afternoon, I travelled to Paucarbamba with several volunteers and saw the remains of many houses by the river. The majority of the Paucarbamba community just outside Urubamba have been displaced as they have lost homes and all of their possessions.

We crossed the Paucarbamba bridge and walked down the rail line, which is the direct rail link between Cusco and Machu Picchu. It was impacted with mud. We carried food which we had purchased in Cusco and were met by about a hundred people in dirty sodden clothes sharing a small stable like building and a few tents. Some aid had arrived in the form of donated clothes and tents from other organizations but this clearly wasn’t enough.

We started to help them to prepare dinner on their outdoor stove. Although the community had just lost their homes they were in good spirits offering cooking tips to us and making jokes!

Our small help delivering food to this community was very much appreciated and needs to continue. They have asked us to go back with food each day and to deliver blankets and tents urgently.

Please check the album CUSCO EMERGENCY on my Facebook page

If you would like to make a donation please make a transfer to the Mysmallhelp UK bank account with the reference CUSCO EMERGENCY or make a donation to the
Paypal account registered at

Lloyds TSB
75 Commercial Street
Batley, WF17 5EQ
IBAN : GB91LOYD30905702074080
Sort Code : 30-90-57
Account No. : 02074080

If you would like to make a direct transfer to the Peruvian bank account for Casa Hogar del Sol the details are as follows

Banco De Credito Del Peru (Sucursal Cusco)

Bank Address:
Av: el sol 189 Banco del Crédito del Perú, Cusco, Peru, South America
Acct: Casa Hogar Del Sol.
Acct. No: 285-17299567-1-75
Swift Code BC PL PE PL