At Aracari, we dedicate ourselves not only to providing the best experience for our travelers, but also by supporting local initiatives that make a positive impact in the regions we serve. One of our favorite initiatives is from the Sol y Luna Lodge and Spa, which aside from being a gorgeous luxury property in the lush Sacred Valley not only supports the Asociación Sol y Luna educational initiative, but it was the very reason that founder Petit Miribel founded it with her husband – precisely to generate sustainable funding for the educational projects of the Association.
Petit Miribel is a French ex-pat who moved to Peru 20 years ago to work in mining, though since early childhood had always felt a profound desire to advance social justice. About one year after moving to Peru, she was inspired to work in education in the Sacred Valley, where she has lived ever since and committs her work and efforts to the improvement of educational opportunities in the area. Petit was disappointed in the state of schools when she first moved to Peru, well before tourism in the region had developed as much as it has today. There were 200 students without no bathrooms, the roofs were falling down, and getting the most basic needs met was a struggle. With the public schools’ inaction, she decided to take matters into her own hands and start a school of her own to deliver quality education in an inclusive environment. This last point is particularly important for Petit’s vision for equal opportunities: her own children attend the school and are educated alongside children from the wider community; only those who can afford to pay full fees.
The Sacred Valley was hardly a tourist destination two decades ago, so it complicated to lay the groundwork for Petit’s vision. Nevertheless, the Asociación Sol y Luna was officially established 18 years ago with the goal of bringing better education to the students in the area. The hotel was established 3 years later – after the social project – In order to raise funds for the school developing a social enterprise initiative. Since then, the organization has been involved in important education, sportive, and cultural programs in order to promote a higher quality of life in the neighborhoods surrounding the luxury spa and lodge.
Though the Sol y Luna Lodge and Spa is a gorgeous property, the school is Sol y Luna’s most important project and the reason the hotel first came about. It has special programs in place for students with special needs, but it is truly an integrative program for all kinds of kids from around the world. The foundation spearheaded a number of side projects before the school got its footing, but now it’s focused exclusively on el Colegio Sol y Luna.
“There’s a system of life within the school,” Petit explained with respect to the school’s unique integrative philosophy, whereby children with physical and developmental disabilities that would normally be ignored in small rural schooling systems are taught in conjunction with the greater student body. Because the student body is so diverse, the goals are different for every student. Some are academic, but others are emotional. Petit describes the deep pride she felt when one young girl from an abusive background started coming out of her shell over the course of the past year. “We taught her to live without fear,” Petit mused.
El Colegio Sol y Luna has recently hit major milestones. Last year, a few of the school’s alumni traveled to Lima to take the Cambridge English exam — and they all passed. Of course, the project has also met a number of challenges. One persisting issue is the lack of space; it is hard to create the perfect environment for kids with disabilities with limited resources. The school is also trying to institute a breakfast and lunch program to make sure students coming from impoverished rural areas are not distracted from their studies by hunger. Despite the challenges, the project’s founders are optimistic, driven by the purpose of the foundation since its initiation 18 years prior. “The children have a right to be agents of their own destiny,” Petit says. “Every day is an achievement for every child.”
There are various ways to help the Asosación Sol y Luna. The principal ways are to donate directly or to stay at the lodge and visit the school. If you are interested in traveling to the Sacred Valley to visit Sol y Luna and stay at the hotel, contact us at email@example.com.