A little about the dorm itself. We currently have 10 or 11 girls at the dormitory. I say 10 “or” 11 because when I got here we had 11. Now, it appears that we have 10. A little more on that in a later post. The object of the project is to provide a safe, supportive environment for impoverished girls from the Andes Mountains to live in, so that they can get an education. Why is that necessary, you may ask? Why don’t they just get on the bus and go to high school? Well, the mountain communities are far. Very far from towns that actually have high schools. The shortest hike that any of our girls has to our town is 3 hours. The longest hike one of our girls has is 8 hours. Each way. So most kids finish their education in the 6th grade. Boys, after that point, are usually sent away to schools or to work in the cities. Girls are left behind to get pregnant.
So, the Sacred Valley Project has set up a dorm in our town of Ollantaytambo. There is a high school here in our town. The goal of the project is to take on 6 new girls every year. So eventually we will have 6 girls in grades 7 -11 (high school.) The girls walk to our town on Sunday afternoon, and live in the dorm throughout the week. On Fridays, they hike back to their communities. What do we do here at the dorm? Glad you asked. Well, aside from giving the girls food and lodging, we give them a lot of educational and social support. They really aren’t very well prepared for high school courses, since their prior education may have been in a one room mud hut in the mountains. So, after they get home from school, we tutor them and work with them on their homework for another 4 or 5 hours. It’s a huge game of catch-up, as well as trying to keep up with new concepts. And we help them acclimate to a different social setting. Oh, right, and learn Spanish. Their native language is Quechua.
The dorm itself is quite adequate. Actually quite luxurious compared to conditions in the mountains. We have an outdoor courtyard,
A kitchen, study room, dining/homework room, 3 bedrooms for the girls,
a shower and toilets (albeit they are sort of outdoors), and a room for our house mom, Maria.
All in all, the dorm itself is a wonderful,caring community, where the girls have learned to grow in so many ways – to live away from home, form a new community of peers, work hard, and fulfill their responsibilities through chores. I am thrilled to be here. And although we lack the amenities of home, I have found so much more in the warmth and caring of the people that I am living and working with. I have found that you don’t need tons of money and stuff to have a happy and fulfilling life. Sometimes, less is more.
November 7th, 2011 at 1:14 pm
How are the girls chosen to participate?
November 7th, 2011 at 1:49 pm
Thanks for asking! Months before the school year starts (in March), our founder, Alex Ball hikes into the mountains to meet with families of different communities. Families must fill out an application, and agree to a contract which basically says that they will support the project by making sure their daughter attends school, that they will attend meetings, and do a few work projects for the dorm. Applications are evaluated on the potential for success: the girl must have finished middle school in good standing, they must have a real need (i.e. there is no alternative for the family to send the daughter to school), and both the girl and family must show commitment to the program. While the program is in a pilot phase, we hope to eventually expand facilities and locations to help hundreds, even thousands of students. I have been hiking in the mountains, and it is so sad when mothers run up to Alex, pleading with him to take their daughters. And at this point, the answer is “Sorry, mami, we have no room right now.” Heartbreaking.