2021 NYE in Urubamba, the last chocolatada and blog update

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January 3rd 2021
Published: January 4th 2021
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Happy New Year 2021!Happy New Year 2021!Happy New Year 2021!

I am so thankful to have survived 2020 and to have spent the whole year in Peru. This has been an incredibly tragic year for so many, but for me it has just been an incredible year. I am so privileged to have spent the year in a place where I could make the pandemic a little easier for thousands of families in the thirteen villages I visited throughout 2020.
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I took last week off from blogging and spent a very traditional New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in Urubamba. Just like Christmas Eve, on New Year's Eve we waited until midnight, went outside by the nativity scene and gave everybody a hug, wishing them a happy New Year and putting yellow confetti in their hair. On Christmas it was multi-colored confetti, but for New Year, everything in Peru is yellow and gold. It's supposed to bring a prosperous New Year and goodness do we all need that after last year!

Honestly, I am just so thankful that all of my friends and family survived 2020 and that nobody in my family got Covid. For most of 2020, my only goal was surviving the pandemic. I figured the rest would just work out well enough if I managed to not get Covid. Of course, I managed to do quite a lot during the pandemic and am so grateful that I was in a time and place that I could start something like the Covid Relief Project - and make it work!
Traditional yellow & gold, with hand washing stationsTraditional yellow & gold, with hand washing stationsTraditional yellow & gold, with hand washing stations

New Year in Peru is rung in with yellow and gold on everything from decorations to underwear. The masks and hand washing stations here became the norm nine months ago and are likely to remain the same throughout 2021. The Peruvian government has said that masks will be mandatory until a vaccine is widely distributed.
We went to eight communities between May and the end of August, then five more in December and the last one January 3rd. It was an amazing experience and I would absolutely do it again, but I am ready to start looking for work that will pay. I can only do volunteer work for so long before I need to find a real job.

On January 3rd, we had our sixth and last chocolatada for the Covid Relief Project. Just under three hours from Cusco is the village of Siusa. The community has electricity in some homes, and most have a well nearby. However, the closest healthcare access is over an hour away, in Pisac. There is a primary school but several parents told us that the teacher did not visit once during the 2020 school year. During the pandemic, all students were supposed to stay home and access the national curriculum by internet, public tv channels or public radio stations. Siusa does have radio, but teachers are still supposed to check in with students regularly, collecting completed assignments and giving feedback on previously collected work. Many small communities are ignored by local governments, especially the more isolated mountain
The last chocolatada in SiusaThe last chocolatada in SiusaThe last chocolatada in Siusa

The sixth and final chocolatada of the Covid Relief Project was in the village of Siusa, high in the mountains above the town of Pisac.
communities. Unfortunately, nobody advocated for the children of Siusa during the pandemic and they did not get the support that they needed.

As with our other five chocolatadas, we started out the day by distributing clothes to children, while the hot chocolate was being made. When we arrived the community had two giant cauldrons of boiling water ready. We added 30 liters of fresh milk to each, along with a one kilo bar of pure cacao, a handful of cloves and several cinnamon sticks. We always make sure that they bring the milk to a boil, since we buy unpasteurized milk directly from a dairy.

Everybody had been instructed to bring a mug and while not everybody had a mug, some had bowls or even old soda bottles. We made sure that everybody got hot chocolate and panettone before we let the children have seconds on the hot chocolate.

After the chocolatada, the community president asked one representative from each family to come receive the food donations. Each family received 5 kilos of rice, 2 kilos of sugar, 1 kilo of salt and 5 bags of oatmeal. We buy salt with iodine and fluoride, two elements that
Clothes for kidsClothes for kidsClothes for kids

Like the five chocolatadas we did in December, the January 3rd chocolatada started with warm clothes for kids. We tried to get mostly coats, jackets and sweaters, since these villages are always at such high altitude that it's just cold all year round.
are not present in the normal Andean diet of potatoes, corn and quinoa. Many of the villages that we visit are at such high altitude that they can only grow potatoes and are hours from the nearest market where they could trade for corn or quinoa.

We finished distributing the donations around noon and were invited by Jacincto, the regidor from Calca, for something to eat. We were each served four boiled potatoes and a fourth of a roasted guinea pig. Almost every community wants to share something with us after we finish the activity. They share what they can, which for some communities is only boiled potatoes or boiled corn. Whatever it is, we are always happy to be able to take some time to talk with the community leaders. It’s our opportunity to ask more about how the pandemic has impacted them and what services are available in the village. None of the villages that we’ve visited has a pharmacy, government clinic or hospital nearby. Most of them do not have any kind of public transportation and leaving the community is very difficult. More importantly, every one of them has managed to stay so isolated that they
Food up in the cloudsFood up in the cloudsFood up in the clouds

For Siusa, high in the Andes, we also brought food for each family: 5 kilos of rice, 2 kilos of sugar, 1 kilo of salt and 5 bags of oatmeal.
do not have any cases of Covid. We hope that they all manage to stay safe until the Peruvian government can distribute a vaccine.

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There are more photos below, so scroll down!

Additional photos below
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Children firstChildren first
Children first

We took enough milk, sugar, pure cacao paste, cloves and cinnamon to make two giant cauldrons of hot chocolate. We always serve children first.
Hot chocolate for allHot chocolate for all
Hot chocolate for all

After all of the children have their first round of hot chocolate, we serve all of the adults.
Hot chocolate plus panettoneHot chocolate plus panettone
Hot chocolate plus panettone

Most kids dip their panettone in the hot chocolate and eat them both together.
The little onesThe little ones
The little ones

Even if a baby doesn't look like they are big enough to eat a whole panettone, we still make sure that everybody gets one. Some mothers also give us bottles to fill with hot chocolate.
One representative per familyOne representative per family
One representative per family

We asked each family to send one representative through the line to receive the donations.

Some of the village elders send a child or grandchild through the line to receive their donations but some prefer to come to us in person. It is always so touching to see their gratitude. I wish that all of our donors could come see how much their generosity is appreciated.
The smart onesThe smart ones
The smart ones

These two girls drank their hot chocolate, then came back through the line for seconds, which they saved in a KR soda bottle.

5th January 2021

You are an amazing person!
Heather, I love reading about your good works, your tribulations and your day to day living in Cusco. I look forward to your weekly update and now that I live in Mexico, I’m sure I’ll visit Peru some future day. You’ve made me so curious! Good luck in finding work and stay safe in this new year. Myra

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