CUSCO, PERU - In August Paris and I travelled to Peru for art and adventure. In addition to a five day trek on the Incan trails, we also visited Camino Nuevo to work with the kids of Manos Unidas. Our goal with the kids was to help them create art to raise funds for their school and the growing curriculum initiatives of the organization's founder Celeste Marion. The trip started with abrupt acclimatization from sea level to 9,000 feet in Pisac and up further to 11,000 feet in Cusco. After a few days of exploring the area, we began our five day trek over the high alpine Salkantay Pass; a thousand feet higher than Mt Rainier! After completing the trek, we spent a day in Aquas Caliente before heading up to see the famed Machu Picchu.
After the trek and some area sightseeing it was back to Cusco where we spent one day meeting with Celeste, the teachers, staff and children of Camino Nuevo's inclusion school. Situated to the south of Cusco, the school is comprised of three buildings and houses classrooms for ages 5 to 18. Children with a range of all different abilities and capacities are here, all happily learning and forming as normal a life as possible through training. For some of the older kids, they'll be given jobs facing the public at Manos Unidas Café in Cusco. We stopped in for a late lunch at the Café after visiting the kids, then turned our attention on finding supplies to work on our project idea with the kids the next day.
Our second day at the school was incredible and what I would consider the highlight of my art career thus far. Working with every child on the campus, we created a collaborative masterpiece that we titled Pachamama's Tree. The activity and dedicated moment per child, seemed to light up their personalities even further. After we finished the various steps of the work, we would take brief breaks for futbol, during which time one of the more endearing moments occurred with one of the younger kids. She was kicking the ball and had quite a strong foot, and launched one over a high fence. When I acted confused as to how I might retrieve it for us, she motioned for my head. I bent down and she promptly snatched my hat off my head and threw it over the fence with the ball, as if to say, "you'll figure it out now, won't you ; ) We all laughed so hard. It was a fittingly light finish to an emotionally exhilarating day.
Below you can see the piece we created together with the students, along with my own contribution to the auction; portraits of an alpaca (left), and a llama (right).
UPDATE (11/04/19): These pieces raised approximately 8,000 dollars total for Manos Unidas once corporate matches were factored in. Many precious thanks to the bidders who won these pieces.