By Caitlin, Photos: Caroline Maxcy Photography | On July 4th, 2012 I had the pleasure of visiting one of the most unique schools I have ever seen. It is located in the Urubamba Valley just walking distance from one of the most famous markets in Cusco, the Pisac Market. Kusi Kawsay School, which means happy life in the native language of Quechua, is made up of students that range from kindergarten to 8th grade with an upper grade study group. It is an Andean Waldorf inspired school, an academic structure and philosophy that can be found in many countries around the world. It offers an alternative integral education that promotes high self esteem in economically challenged children through the integration of their native Andean traditional culture, which is both valued and respected.
Upon my arrival in Pisac I met Fielding, our host, at the Pisac Inn. She accompanied us up the flight of terraced steps that lead you from the market to where the Kusi Kawsay School is located. Along the way she gave us an excellent introduction to the school and its philosophies. Fielding and her husband are the owners of the Pisac Inn and close friends of Aracari for some time now. We frequently send our clients to their delicious restaurant located within the inn, Cuchara de Palo. I actually had lunch there during my visit and I can hands down say it was one of the best lunches I had in the Valley! Once we learned that Fielding was involved with this school (sending their own children there) and was actively trying to help fundraise, we decided that this organization was definitely worth a personal visit.
When we arrived at the school, we visited each classroom starting with kindergarten. Luckily, we arrived on a Wednesday, the day that the five and six year olds make their own homemade bread. They ended their day each passing around a slice. When they came running out to meet their parents (all parents are required to come pick up their kindergarteners), we were able to meet them personally and snap some photos of them playing on their swing set. We ventured inside the classroom and got a detailed explanation by one of the teachers and her assistant of how things work. They explained that the Waldorf Philosophy is quite different and prides itself on incorporating music and art into all different aspects of its studies. There are special songs to sing between the switching of activities and we even participated in one! All the toys that are supplied are made from natural materials and the Andean culture and history of Peru is a big part of their daily routine. The school believes that it is essential to teach their students about the Quechua culture and spirituality since most of the children speak this native language at home and can relate what they are being taught by their parents. It really is a beautiful marriage of cultures and ideas. Kusi Kawsay School is so successful at doing this that the Waldorf Philosophy is beginning to look to them as an example and learn from their teaching techniques.
Kusi Kawsay School was founded by five families whose dissatisfaction with the Peruvian school system in the area and inability to make any adequate changes in this system brought them together. They have reached out to many different families and areas around Pisac and have been able to raise enough funds to build the school through grants and donations. One of the founding families even donated their own land. There is still a lot of work to be done as most of the students that attend the school cannot pay for their tuition. However, Kusi Kawsay has their tuition set up on a sliding scale depending on the realistic means of each family. They offer a very low rate to families who are under the poverty level, yet there are many who cannot even pay 7% of that rate. This is where Aracari and our clients come in; we would love to start working with them to be able to offer monetary donations for students whose families cannot afford the tuition. You also will get a chance to visit the school during your trip to Peru and see firsthand what your contribution is doing to make a difference.
In the end, I can definitely say that this school is a valuable asset to the Pisac community and with your help we can contribute to the education of the future of Peru!