Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our Next Adventure

We're looking forward to continuing our "Voluntourism" adventure in Peru this April 15th through 24th. This amazing trip consists of 4 days exploring the rich culture and heritage of the Peruvian people with hiking, rafting and sightseeing. The final four days are working hands-on with our non-profit partner Coprodeli in areas such as Pachacutec (outside of Lima) doing such activities as outreach, helping locals with basic life needs, as well as teaching classes for the children at the Coprodeli schools.

For those of you interested in joining us this year, we only have 12 spots available per trip of which 8 are already full. Are you one of those remaining four adventurous and uplifting souls? If you'd like to know more about our trips, please feel free to read the blogs below from our trip last year or check out our website at www.boyanciwine.com under the "BE UPLIFTING" tab for the detailed itinerary from last year.

Hopefully we will see you there!

Be Uplifting,
Kevin Boyer

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

So You're Asking "Should I Go on One of these Trips?"

Yes, by all means you should come! I'm sure many of you reading this have never been on what is now being called a "voluntourism" trip (a combine tourism/volunteer trip). I had never been on one until last year and now I'm a zealot, at least for this trip. It is a great way to see some of Peru's most amazing spots and enjoy some fun activities for the first 4 days (Machhu Picchu, Waynu Picchu, river rafting, horse back riding and more).

What I think would surprising you is the volunteer part of the trip is even more fun and adventurous than the tourism portion. During the second half of the trip you will be in a group of 3 teaching in one of the Coprodeli run schools during the day. You will teach approximately 3 classes per day for 90 minutes at a time. You will have had conference calls with your group in advance of the trip and planned what you are teaching and what materials to bring. On one of the days you will spend 3 hours doing "outreach" where you will get the chance to go out into the community and visit people in their homes and help Coprodeli staff assess needs.

In the evenings you visit the orphanages two or three times. We bring them dinner and also bring goodie bags for them.

The trip is not expensive and in fact it is less expensive then if you wanted to plan a trip to Peru on your own. Total cost, including airfare and all the excursions is approximately $2,000, many of us probably spend $2k at home in ten days. This includes airfare, lodging, transportation, administrative costs and about two-thirds of your meals. You also have the option to skip the tourism portion and just do the volunteer portion would cut the costs further. If you're interested we can provide a much more detailed cost breakdown and itinerary or you can find that in a pdf on our website under the "Be Uplifting" tab at www.boyanciwine.com .

BOYANCI Wine will continue to host one trip a year and we would love for you to join us. We next trip will likely be around the same time as this year's trip so the end of June. If that is not convenient for you Coprodeli does host 2 other trips per year that you could potentially participate in. For more information visit www.coprodeliusa.net or call their office at 312-798-2391 .

The typical schedule is to arrive on a late Wednesday night and leave the 9 days later on a Friday. Again if you did not want to do the Tourism portion the trip could be cut down to under a week.

I was lucky enough to have persuaded some of my friends and family to join us and hopefully you had a chance to read their blog entries about their experience. Everyone had an amazing time. They came back feeling enriched and with a new found perspective. They also saw first hand the excellent and very efficient work that Coprodeli is doing down there and are now committed to help further.

I hope you'll consider joining us. I would be happy to provide any additional information and feel free to email me directly (tom@boyanciwine.com) or just reply to the blog. See you in Peru!



Friday, July 10, 2009

Thanks for your generousity

Special thanks to Roma, Aline, David, Amy, Sarah, and Papa Tomas for helping us to fund this donation to improve the nutrition of the boys in the Callao orphanage. I thought I would post this so others can see just how diligent Coprodeli is in tracking how the money is spent and providing sight to its use. I hope others will join us for future trips but you don't have to wait to go to Peru to help. There are lots of ways to get involved and donate all posted on coprodeli's web site at www.coprodeliusa.org.


Tom and Kevin

Below is Coprodeli project document:

BOYANCI Project for Boys Orphanage in Callao, Peru
Project: $800 Donation for weekly meals for residents of the Casa Hogar Ana Mogas in Callao, Peru

Project Objective:
On June 3, volunteers from the BOYANCI service group made a contribution of US$ 800 to cover the purchase of weekly meals for one year for the children living in the Casa Hogar Ana Mogas. Funding from the BOYANCI group will be used in coordination with the nutrition initiatives already in place at the center, complimenting the program by providing greater meal variety and additional nutrition.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

All the Food was Great but La Mar Reigns Supreme

Many don't think of Peru as a culinary center but the food is excellent. Each area has its typical foods: Guinea Pig and Alpaca in Cusco, Chicheria (I'm sure I spelled this wrong) in Ica which is a unique but delicious take on pork and of course Ceviche and other fresh seafood in Lima (Miraflores is the swanky part of Lima where many of the best restaurants are found).

We did not eat at fancy restaurants with one exception, we ate at very common inexpensive local places and had great food and friendly, albeit leisurely service across this great country.

There were though two stand out meals one in Lima and one in Cusco. I'll let Kevin tell you about the Cusco meal.

The best meal that we had was hands down our lunch at LA MAR. This was not just a great meal by Peruvian standards it was world class. OK, we were not the first to discover Gaston Acurio's genius in fact he now has restaurants around the world including Mexico City, San Francisco, San Paolo, Spain and Costa Rica. From our experience he deserves all the praise and success given to him our meal was a spiritual experience.

Cebiches is king and there are 11 different ones to choose from at La Mar. The fish is as fresh as it gets most of it caught within hours of being served and preparations combine the typical and traditional with a great modern and creative flair. Excellent combinations of flavors and textures create a symphony in your mouth.

The meal was made even better by our excellent waiter Paul who spoke perfect English and knew the menu inside and out. He is also a real student of food and provided great background on Peruvian cuisine and how Gaston had stayed true to traditional while giving it his one unique flare. If you go you must request Paul.

Every thing is wonderful but we especially recommend the following:
1) Fuente de 5 Cebiches (a combination of 5 amazing Ceviche preparations)
2) Planchas Criolla (perfectly prepared Octopus on sweet potato)
3) Arroces Criollo (traditional rice topped with scallops and fish prepared in a Wok)

We enjoined this delicious meal with a bottle of Rio Negro Torrentes from Patagonia Argentina. Its floral nose and excellent acidity and dry finish made it versatile enough to match up with all the various flavors. They have a great wine program featuring many excellent Argentinian and Spanish wines and have a knowledgeable staff. We enjoyed our tour of the wine cellar and conversing with the Sommelier.

La Mar is only open for lunch until 5pm each day to ensure the very freshest fish and does not take reservations but the wait is usually no more than 20 minutes. Don't miss it!



Padre Miguel: One Part CEO, One Part Priest

The last two days that I spent working with Coprodeli in Peru were with Padre Miguel, the founder, strategist and leader of the organization. I could go on and on about what amazing work this guy and his team have done and how much he they accomplished.

I think we have all experienced the amazing privilege you feel when you are able to spent meaningful time with someone that is truly great. I don't mean famous, I mean great. To me a great man (or women for that matter) is able to create breakthroughs, to do things that others would have thought impossible. But it's more than just that, it is also about HOW they do the seemingly impossible. In the case of Padre Miguel, he does it with such grace, humility and and an absence of interest in self-promotion.

During our first night in Peru we all had dinner with Padre Miguel at a Pizza joint near the volunteer house. After dinner he invited us to his office and we then took us through a presentation that explained Coprodeli's mission, strategy and how they "keep score" on how they are doing. He shared his capitalistic philosophy about ensuring that those Coprodeli helps having "skin the game". All recipients pay something for the schooling, uniforms and houses even if it is sweat equity. Padre believes firmly in development and assistance but not charity. The organizations accomplishments were laid out factually and quantitatively without superlatives and with little reference to Padre personally. The presentation resembled the sort of professional presentation that one would expect from a CEO like Jack Welch of a large for profit organization. My PHD Economist father was even impressed which is no small feat.

While he was presenting someone noticed the picture of he and Mother Teresa on Padre's desk and inquired about it "Padre, what a great honor that Mother Teresa came to visit you". He replied "She came here 20 years ago when things were very bad in Peru and Coprodeli was just getting started. She didn't come to honor me she came to offer help because she said I would need a lot of help and she was right". It is this kind of humility that characterizes the man.

Over my last two days with him, we visited Ica (an area completely destroyed by an earthquake 2 years ago where he is determined to build 2,000 houses, he has 111 built so far), Chincha where he has just finished a school and will now build 1,000 houses and a church around it and Pisco, where we stood in an empty field that would eventually have 1,000 houses, a school, church and medical clinic. Standing in that field in Pisco Vanessa, the Director of Coprodeli's US fundraising said to me "the government has stopped paying its promised funds and Coprodeli has incurred a lot of debt". I asked Padre "how will you deal with this setback". He said "the same way we have dealt with all the rest, our employees and volunteers will get creative, we will rally the local people, we will put pressure on the government and somehow we will get he money and finish the project".

As we asked more questions and listened we learned that every single project has had barriers unimaginable to us in the US. Broken promises, no water rights, a government official reneging on payment the day before school was to start, etc. Coprodeli did not receive the deeds to the land that it built schools on in one area until 3 years after the schools had been built. "Better to ask for forgiveness than wait years for permission" Padre Miguel said. This seemed an even more fitting response coming from a Priest.

In Ica, Coprodeli will only build houses that conform to the highest earthquake standards but still the building permits and government funding is very slow to come. Other builders who are building lesser houses are getting permits and funding much quicker because they are "taking care of the inspectors". In a country where bribes are a common part of business Coprodeli abstains. As a result there are challenges and delays but it works out in the end. A recent aftershock in Ica destroyed two new but poorly constructed houses while the new Coprodeli built house next store stood strong without a crack. The next day some funding and approvals arrived at Coprodeli's office. I guess that's the mysterious ways thing in action......

We had a wonderful couple of days and I got a glimpse into what it is like to work in the face of real adversity. The next time I find something particularly challenging I will think of Padre Miguel in that field in Peru and put my challenges in their proper perspective.

I have now arrived back in the states and I already can't wait to go back to Peru. I hope many of you will join us for our next trip. I promise you will have an Uplifting and unforgettable experience.



In the Classroom

Coprodeli has build 14 schools in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Peru. We spent July 1st and 2nd teaching at two of the four Coprodeli schools in Pachacutec, a shantytown in Callao about 30 miles from Lima. It is a great model, Coprodeli builds the schools, creates the ciriculum(an 8 hour school day), manages the application process which involves entrance exams and the government pays the teachers and expenses.

The contrast is striking. As my Dad talked about in his entry, Pachacutec is a shantytown where the houses have no running water, no indoor plumbing and are built on dirt floors from scrap materials. The schools on the other hand are on par with US schools. They are modern with all of features found in the states including a computer lab. It must be a huge shock to come from those houses into these schools.

We split our volunteers into two groups and both groups had spent the month prior to the trip on conference calls discussing their project, what supplies they needed to bring and who would do what. Our group decided to incorporate photography. On my last visit I remember hearing that most of these children and their parents did not have cameras and did not own photos of themselves. I remember the kids being giddy about seeing their image on the digital camera's little screen and I had wished I had a way to get the pictures to them.

We also wanted to make our project somewhat educational so we explained a little about how photography worked to the class (a very little bit). We had prepared a demonstration of how the first camera was created but after we couldn't get our demonstration to work in rehearsal we scrapped it. We took every child's individual photo (they are 40 kids to a class and kids in most of our classes were around 8 years old). We then passed out wood frames and all kinds of fun decorations: feathers, sequins, markers, glue, balls, yarn, etc. and asked the kids to decorate the frames. We then worked table to table assist them and also spent time teaching them some English words while they taught us some Spanish. Our project was really a collaboration. All 4 of us had input into the content and shared the presentation.

As each photo came out of the printer we secured them in the frames. The kids were ecstatic! They were so proud of their frame creations and their photos. Many put their names on their frames and some added their parents names. They kept asking if they could keep them. Of course!

We had some much fun working these happy, creative and energetic kids. Socio-economic and cultural differences disappear. Even language barriers seemed to get easier to manage. the kids shared the clue and decorations and shocked us with their excellent manners, patience and obedience. The teachers stayed in the classroom and helped as well. It was really a hell of a lot of fun.

OK, does this activity change the world? Does it even change the life of one child? No. But it brightens their day, it provides them with a photo to display at home in their very humble abode and it gives the kids precious attention of caring volunteers. It also brought joy to us the volunteers and every single volunteer got to see the amazing good being done in these schools and they will spread the word and the support will multiply and that will multiply the number of schools we can build and the kids we can help. Big things come out of little things.

Tom Steffanci