After our Machu Picchu adventures, we returned to Cuzco, to la casa de Daniel, our guide and the friend of Peruvian Hearts, who you may remember from an earlier blog post.
On our last night, we wanted to explore the Plaza (city center), and Cynthia invited 18-year-old Katy, who lives with Daniel and his wife Rosa, to join us. We wanted to see what life in Cuzco was like through the eyes of a teen girl. During the day, Katy goes to tourism school, learning how to be a guide. In exchange for her education and shelter, she does chores around the hostel. Katy brought us to two discotecas around the Plaza. The first discoteca, Mama Africa, was mentioned in our guide book and filled mostly with tourists. The other was three floors up through an unassuming entrance and was frequented by Peruvians. Neither place carded and the latter had a huge video screen playing what was essentially porn (yikes), though no one seemed affected by it. The fact that teenagers can enter these places, even if they are responsible like Katy, is a bit alarming. But that could be a whole other blog post!
Cynthia, Liz, Manny and I learned a lot during our stay in Cuzco simply by going deeper than the average tourist and asking the locals questions. What I learned:
1. The Value of Choice: Katy is in tourism school and says she wants to be a guide – this is the most lucrative profession that an average Cuzqueno can have. Tourism dollars pour in here every day. Though I find the skill sets of a good guide to be impressive and dignified – knowledge of history, ease at public speaking, the chance to impact people from all walks of life, it’s looked up as a servile profession, Daniel told us.
I wish to see more social businesses spread in the regions that She’s the First serves, so girls have more options of working for companies that deliver a need to the marketplace while providing more options for employment. In a social business, the profits aren’t hogged by those at the top, but invested in company growth and fair wages. These kind of enterprises would thrive even more if girls in school learned how to take out microloans and run their own businesses. I’m scratching the surface on themes of a book I started reading – Building Social Business – in a very elementary way, but what I mostly want She’s the First to learn from this: education we sponsor should not just enable a student to pass her national exams, but also to become an entrepreneur if she desires.
2. If you want to do good, first listen to the people you want to help. This is why She’s the First is more than creative fundraising machine – we are also growing as a digital storytelling platform (notably with our email exchanges with our Kisa Scholars in Tanzania, sponsored by GIRLS WHO ROCK NY).
Daniel told us a story over hot chocolate at breakfast that illustrates this. He said World Vision once gave the poorest people in Peru five guinea pigs each (that’s a popular food here, called cuy). But guinea pigs need to eat constantly, and the people couldn’t afford to feed themselves, let alone buy food for the guinea pigs – so the guinea pigs died, didn’t reproduce, and weren’t a sustainable food source. Had the donors asked the people what they needed, they would have gotten a different answer and avoided the waste. That’s what She’s the First 360 is all about — asking questions to understand need.
Katy was wearing just a sweatshirt when she went out with us. We were all bundled up in three layers, coats, hats, scarves, because it’s winter here. The daytime is brisk but the nights are freezing. When we said goodbye the next morning, we left her with mi bufanda rosada – my pink scarf. It’s a memory of us, one we hoped would keep her warmer, just like the memories she left with us — they lit another burning fire inside She’s the First.