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Susan’s next adventure – and first real writing job!

I’m planning a trip back to Peru in March and April, this time not just for fun, but with a purpose.  I’m going to be working for a non-profit organization (Awamaki) based in Ollantaytambo, a small town not far from the famous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu.  Ollantaytambo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited Inca towns in the Andes, and has its own spectacular and well-preserved Inca ruins.  It’s seated deep in the Sacred Valley, a verdant, winding cleft rife with history and littered with Inca sites.  While the Sacred Valley is a documented stop on the tourist route, it takes a distant second to Cusco and Machu Picchu, despite being less than an hour’s drive away.  Awamaki’s goal is to enlarge Ollantaytambo’s presence on the tourist map and thereby create jobs and a healthy economy for the otherwise impoverished indigenous community.  Among their other projects, they sponsor a weaving initiative, creating a healthy way for local Quechua women to build self-esteem, earn income, and celebrate a centuries-old artistic tradition.  They also run a clinic that provides health care and health education to local families, and run an after-school program for children living in the area.

My job while I’m there will be to create a guidebook of local trails, day hikes, and longer treks that will attract more Western tourists.  Hiking AND writing?  It’s perfect.  When I read the job description back in September, I thought, this job was made for me! And then I thought, I’m going to make it happen.  I’ve been working three and four jobs since I got back to Utah in order to save enough money to make the trip a possibility, and it’s finally coming together.  Two years ago I spent four months hiking through the Peruvian Andes, practicing my Spanish and learning Quechua, the language of the indigenous mountain people.  I was lucky to meet many locals who helped me to trek far off the beaten tourist path and explore regions rarely visited but unparalleled in their history and wildness.  It was this experience, as well as my passion for writing, that I described to Awamaki to indicate my unique qualification for the guidebook job, and they agreed to take me on. I won’t be getting paid, but I will be a hired writer.  Being able to put the experience on my resume is going to be worth every penny.

Like most non-profits operating in the third world, Awamaki is constantly seeking donations of time, money, and supplies.  In order for me to participate in the program, I will be paying a one-time donation of $650.  This donation will cover my first month of room and board in a homestay (almost half of the funds go directly to the local family that will host me), project materials, and a donation to the guidebook project. It also covers the expenses that Awamaki incurs in hosting volunteers and running the volunteer program.

Now that I know for sure that I’ll be going, I’m reaching out.  I’m talking to my contacts at REI, and planning presentations to talk about my past experiences in Peru as well as seek donations and sponsorship for this upcoming trip.  I’m talking to the owner of Brighton Resort to request permission to hold a fund-raising bake sale and to see if Brighton would be interested in being a sponsor of the trip.  And I’m asking all of you to consider supporting me and Awamaki.  The program is currently requesting baby and kid’s clothes, prenatal vitamins, school and art supplies, used digital cameras for a community photography workshop, and a used laptop computer.  I know many of you readers are far from Salt Lake City, Utah, but if you have any of the above supplies and would be willing to mail them to me, I know that Awamaki will be exceptionally grateful, as will the local Ollantinos who receive your donations.

Thanks for reading, and thank you for your support.

1 comment to Susan’s next adventure – and first real writing job!

  • Brett

    Susan – this is fantastic news. I’m thrilled that you’re getting to make a return trip to Peru, and you’re writing! Looking forward to hearing about your upcoming Peruvian adventures.

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