Incayuda: A response from Mikki

Dear Sammy,
This month, I was dunked heart-first in the ancient energies of Peru.
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I participated in ceremonies, went to Macchu Picchu, and received blessings and initiations from Qu'ero shaman Don Francisco. The food, people, workshops, scenery, company: all of it was completely unforgettable. I felt totally wrapped up in safety, love, and inspiration. I committed myself to trusting the universe more, to remembering abundance and living fearlessly.

And then I got mugged.

That particular story's not worth focusing on. Suffice it to say, they got my backpack, camera, cash, credit cards, passport, and some personal items (and yeah, I should've left the passport in the hotel. Lesson learned). I wasn't hurt, which is – as everyone reminds me – the important thing. I had to stay in Lima a few extra days getting new documents and airfare.

And here is where the story actually starts. From the moment I got back to the hotel, I was surrounded by help. The universe provided:

- Cecelia, a woman who lives near the hotel and volunteers to be a translator when tourists need help. She stayed with me for hours. This isn't her job.

- A security guard who shuttled us to the police station

- Ismael and Diego, hotel employees who were kind and helpful

- a cop who encouraged me to speak Spanish in an effort to calm me down

- Sammy Torres. More on him in a minute.

- the Embassy official who processed my new passport in one hour on Monday

- and when the airline office told me I could either pay $1600 or wait a WEEK to get home, a travel agent spent two hours pulling strings to get me a flight the next day for $160

Wow. Right?

So back to Sammy: This Peruvian-born musician from Seattle overheard my nervous explanation to the daytime receptionist (where I said in broken Spanish that I was robbing the night before. Oops). Kind Sammy introduced himself, bought me breakfast, kept me company, paid for my passport (so I had ID to pick up the money transfer from my superhero husband), and showed me his favorite places in Lima – places I wouldn't have seen otherwise. He explained, "I got mugged when I was new to the US. They took everything I had, so I couldn't even take the train anywhere. Someone did for me what I'm doing for you, so don't worry about anything. I'm glad I have the chance to do something good."

Turns -5out, he does a lot of good: he runs a charity for the poorest people in Lima and he was in town for a site visit. I had the opportunity to go with him to Carabayllo, where people live in shacks built on the dust. I'm not exaggerating. There's no running water, no real sanitation to speak of, no education except for what the local moms can teach. My assailants probably grew up in a place like Carabayllo. Given what I saw there, that level of frustrating poverty, I can kinda see how ripping off a tourist might seem like a good option. Sammy's organization, Incayuda (a contraction of Inca and ayuda, or help), provides building materials and expertise so people can help themselves improve their living conditions. During this visit, they were expanding the one-room school and kitchen (above left) where the village children get a meal and rudimentary education.

Here he is, pitching in.

Sammy at work

Today, he emailed me about their progress:

Incayuda, with the help of the people here, transformed this place, which had no floor, no ceiling, into a place of brightness and color. We poured a floor slab, installed windows and doors, laid a corrugated metal roof, added a finish coat to the walls (inside and outside), then painted. We were able to stretch our resources to add a water tank right next to the building, so the kids can wash their hands and the pots and pans can be cleaned more easily.

The physical changes to the building are nothing compared to seeing the changes in the people around me as the work progressed. I see pride of accomplishment from everyone who pitched in to help, I see confidence in those who learned new skills, I see smiles from the skeptics who didn't believe it could be done this well, I see happiness and hope in the eyes of the children who now know people far away cared enough to make this happen.

Aside from praying we had sufficient funding to do all the work we wanted to do, we had the challenge of building trust between Incayuda and the people, and the people amongst themselves. We were here to give a hand up to these villagers to accomplish a project that would benefit everyone, and not favor anyone.

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The bubble of security and love that I had felt just days before in the Sacred Valley had been burst by an attack. But then it was built up again by the help and thoughtfulness of all the people who surrounded me afterwards, who taught me more about Peru- and myself- than I ever imagined. I learned what I had intended to learn: to trust that I will be taken care of, that I will always have enough. I also had a solid reminder of how damn lucky I am to live where I do, to have the simple luxuries of safe drinking water, a hot shower, and an education. Abundance, folks. My heart is filled with gratitude for everything I experienced in Peru.

I hope that – if this story has moved you at all – you might consider making a donation to Incayuda. A few dollars goes a lot farther in Peru, and I have seen with my own eyes the good work being done there. It wasn't on the itinerary, to say the least, but I am lucky I got to see it. I can't help but think it was for a very good reason.

Wishing you abundance and safe adventures,