Over the course of the summer, three Walla Walla University students will be living in Peru as student missionaries, working on behalf of EWB to organize our current electrical project in the community of Japura. Alex Yañez and Lauren Pernu, both recently graduated, are civil and mechanical engineers respectively and are responsible for the technical aspects of the project. Alex also serves as our Spanish translator, and Stephanie Septembre (myself) is in charge of needs assessment and collecting promotional material. Our goals over the summer are to build relationships with Japura community members, finalize project contracts, and purchase building materials so the next team will be able to start construction immediately.
The team arrived in Peru on June 22 and spent the first few days in Cuzco acclimatizing to the elevation, which is approximately 11,000 feet. We were fortunate to be there during Cuzco’s biggest festival, Inti Raymi, which is a re-enactment of Incan celebrations of the winter solstice. Singing and dancing lasted all week, giving us a first-hand look at Peruvian culture.
On June 25, we arrived at our permanent residence, Camp Chuquicahuana, which is an ADRA center about an hour and a half outside of Cuzco. The director of the camp, Pulsiano, serves as our driver, Quechua interpreter, and Peruvian father. His wife, Hilda, is the head cook, and every meal since our arrival has been the equivalent of a gourmet restaurant buffet.
The past week has been spent investigating various options for EWB’s electricity project. We are collecting information to decide whether to proceed with a hydro, solar, or combination system. Our first task involved investigating the nearby community of Labramani, which owns a stream that would be capable of producing necessary electricity for Japura. The trip involved an hour hike through incredible landscape, and Labramani community members were eager to help us collect data. One family graciously invited us for tea and freshly-baked potatoes, and they offered to adopt us if we were interested in staying. Unfortunately, our work in Labramani virtually eliminated the possibility of using their stream; however, we are still hoping to collect data from smaller streams in Japura to see whether they are capable of supporting a hydro system.
In regards to a solar system, we discovered that the government has provided rural families near Puno with electricity via solar panels. Though it is several hours from the ADRA center, Pulsiano drove us to the site where we were able to collect data and interview families about how their electrical system works. All the individuals we encountered were very pleased with their system, which has given us a more promising outlook for installing a similar design.
Our current task is preparing for Japura’s general assembly, which will take place on July 5th. With all families and community leaders present, we will be able to exchange information and hopefully clear up any misunderstandings either party may have. Based on the information they give us at this meeting, we hope to select the appropriate system and proceed to have community members and the municipality sign contracts.