Amantani was formally established on 20th May 2008, following twelve months' planning and development.
Here's the story behind Amantani, as told by our three co-founders:
"In 2007, I was working in the city of Cusco in a home for abandoned children led by María and Pilar Echevarría. In March of that year, I first met Fred Branson who arrived at the home as a volunteer. I remember mentioning in passing to Fred that – before working in the home in Cusco – I worked as a teacher in the District of Ccorca, as the director of the nursery school in Ccorca. I explained that Ccorca was a beautiful place, located 19km from the city of Cusco, that was unfortunately considered as extremely poor, without any support from public or private organisations. I explained that I understood the socio-cultural reality, having spent 15 years working as a teacher there.
I invited Fred and Pilar to make the trip to visit Ccorca. Before Fred returned to the UK, we made the trip to Ccorca, and I felt a very special excitement. After an hour and a half driving in the rain, we arrived at Ccorca. I could sense the excitement of Fred and Pilar, and the sadness because we arrived to find the school of Ccorca Ayllu shut and the children sat outside in waiting in the rain, in vain.
In my perception, this trip made Fred and Pilar see and feel the reality of children living in extreme poverty in rural areas of Cusco. Afterwards we met with teachers from the district capital, who commented that the majority of their pupils had to walk from very distant communities to reach school, sometimes as many as four hours, there and back, come rain or shine.
Returning to Cusco, Fred and Pilar were obviously impacted by everything they had seen. The following day, Fred left for the UK and it wasn’t until a couple of months later that we heard from Fred, that he and a group in the UK wanted to do something to help the children in Ccorca."
"In November 2006, I went travelling through South America with two friends Simon and Tom. In our final month, we volunteered in a home for abandoned children in Cusco. I haven't met anyone who on visiting this place, wasn't completely blown away by everything that goes on there - and I was no different. The founders, Maria and Pilar, were hugely inspirational in their complete dedication to these amazing children who each had their own – often difficult –story. They were also very generous to us, both with their time and their knowledge. This, coupled with our moments in the home, gave us a far more profound experience of Peru than we were afforded in the other countries we visited. It was a crash course in Peruvian society, its inner workings and the reasons why many Cusqueñan children found themselves in homes like this one.
According to Pilar, one of these reasons was poor standards of education, especially in rural areas, and so our greatest insight came on the final day of our trip, when we had the opportunity to visit Ccorca, a rural community one hour from Cusco. This time, Rocio, a teacher with 15 years’ experience in the community’s nursery school, was on hand to tell us stories of sexual violence, alcoholism and exploitation; all root causes of the abandonment of children that we witnessed in Cusco itself.
We became convinced that it was here, in rural communities, that we should work to strengthen education, in order to prevent more children from being abandoned. Six months later, I went back and with Pilar and Rocio, we began talking with the local community, parents and teachers. We heard about the vast distances children had to walk to get to school and we decided to help the community do something about it. The community donated a disused building, the parents painted the walls and we put in the bunk beds. That's how the first boarding house began.
Since returning from that second trip, I have been completely overwhelmed by the generosity of people keen to support the young people in Ccorca. This team began with Chris Palfreyman and a small group of trustees, and has very quickly spread to include a large number of people offering their support in various ways."
"In March 2006, three young volunteers, Fred, Simon and Tom, came to the home for abandoned children that I founded with my sister Maria in 1997. At that moment, Rocío was working with us as a coordinator of our external projects. Previously Rocio had worked in the District of Ccorca, as the director of the nursery school there. Rocio was well-known by everyone living in Ccorca, and when the community of Rumaray found out that we had projects in Cusco, they asked Rocio if we would visit Rumaray to see if we could do something there.
Rocio convinced me to visit Ccorca, and as our three volunteers were coming to the end of their trip, we invited them to come to get to know a little bit of ‘deep Peru’. When we got to Rumaray, the parents were waiting for us. They told us that their children (23 children aged between 3 and 5) went straight to school, at six years old, without any type of formal cognitive or linguistic development. We were all impacted by the situation, as well as the interest of the parents.
After a short time, people began to send support which enabled us to begin working with these children, and with time, with more children in Totora, Tamborpuquio and Cusibamba.
Fred returned not long after and the community members received him with lots of excitement. In the seven months that followed, Fred, Rocio and I were increasingly impacted by Ccorca, its people, the deficient education system and the distances children were having to walk to get to school, and our enthusiasm for working in Ccorca only grew.
I remember one meeting with the parents from the secondary school, analysing the situation of the school and its pupils. We heard comments such as, ‘we would like that our daughters aren’t abused’. They were referring to the fact that they wanted to make sure that their daughters finish their secondary school so that they are not illiterate like them, and so that their husbands don’t abuse them. I remember this because that idea made a big impact on me. And so, through these meetings, little by little, the idea emerged of making use of the then unoccupied mill (which was right next to the secondary school) to work with female secondary school students."