Project Peru // Q'ero

Project Overview

Vanishing Cultures Foundation, Inc. was created to support the indigenous people of Peru by preserving their spiritual lineage and supporting their economic development. Vanishing Cultures approach to fulfilling its mission is one that provides funding, practical advice and hands on support for each village project. We assist but never interrupt. We support but do not interfere. The village is involved in every step of the process. The input of the village is critical to our mission. Our mandate comes from the word ‘ayni,’ a Quechua word from the Andes that means reciprocity or an exchange that maintains balance in the flow of energy from one source to another. This is the cornerstone of the Andean relationship with the universe as well as the guiding principle of our foundation   When VCF, Inc was started in 1995, to assist the Q’ero Nation. The Q’ero people live in the mountains of Peru, at altitudes between 14,000 feet to 19,000 feet elevation. They are a primitive tribe existing long before the Inca empire was in place. They live in primitive stone houses with no electricity, no running water, no heat, no toilets or kitchens, none of the simple things we all take for granted.   The goal of VCF, Inc, upon the request of elder medicine man Altomesayok Don Manuel Quispe, was to assist the Q’ero Nation to reclaim their health and no longer need outside assistance.  On our first visit to the Q’ero people we did all the regular conventional testing and research. The basic health of these people was good and easy to work with to bring back into balance, however the real base of the problem was to find a way to bring clean water to the entire nation.   Yes it seems like a simple thing, clean water is one of the things we in the modern world take for granted. Yes, it is hard to believe that at extreme altitudes, surrounded by majestic mountains and glaciers, there is no clean water.  Well there is an abundance of water, it looks clear and beautiful….however it is infested with every internal parasite we know. It took our team some good detective work with conventional medical tests to find this answer. Yes, intestinal worms…unbelievable, yes, directly from the frozen ancient glaciers at 22,000 feet elevation!   We have researched years to find a way that would be accessible to all the Q’ero families, easy to use, and able to withstand the primitive life style and difficult environmental conditions. VCF has heard others have built things for clean water in the Q’ero, however in our 17 years of personally working in the villages with the people, we have never seen any evidence of anything resembling any water purification systems.   Finally in 2011 VCF has joined forces with Waves for Water to bring clean, parasite free water filters to the Q'ero Nation. Our first delivery to observe the feasibilty was September 2011. After great success, In September of 1012, the Q'ero Mayor has asked for an additional 250 filters so every family in the Q'ero Nation could have clean parasite water for the first time ever!   We now need to collect an additional 250 family style filters, please consider supporting this cause and assisting this ancient tribe to all have clean water for the first time in their lives….   Thank you, Denise A. Kinch

Sep 26 - 2012The Light Bulb Moment

There is a specific moment that happens every time we do a water filter demo for a community in need. I call it the “Light Bulb” moment.

Their eyes widen… jaws drop… and they stand taller – proud like. It is magical.

I forget how magical it really is sometimes because I am so close to it. Here’s a quick snapshot of what this moment usually looks like – we take a local water source that sometimes looks the same color as an IPA beer, run it through the filter system that we built in a matter of minutes (with nothing but a 5 gal bucket and a knife) and viola — out comes crystal clear potable water. It is amazing… But the best part is that it’s real – no illusions, just a perfect shiny example of technological evolution. And the proof… Well, using the most extreme example, it’s about as simple as this – we go into a community where people are dying… we do our program – they stop dying.

But it’s the “Light Bulb” moment that makes my heart expand every time. Watching people’s reactions when the only water source they’ve ever known, goes from dark to light is priceless.

I recently got the opportunity to do a project with a few of the Q’ero villages in the Peruvian Andes. An incredible woman by the name of Denise Kinch reached out to us and asked if we’d be interested in partnering up with her to provide these villages with clean water.

Denise Kinch's foundation, Vanishing Cultures, has been working with these particular villages for 20 years, aiding them on many fronts. She has also studied and practiced their spiritual belief system for just as long and is now a renowned teacher of such ways herself.

Denise and I with village chief

Denise and village elder

She has devoted much of her life to helping this community that most of the world doesn’t even know exists. I’ve done this long enough now to know that there are indigenous communities all over the world that have slipped through the cracks and are literally receiving zero help of any kind.

Lots of colorful outfits in the Q'eros

Mostly its due to proximity – just getting to the Q’eros is a feat. The physical difficulty alone cuts down the abilities of many aid groups and if no one goes; then no one knows they exist, let alone the problems they face.

Deep Andes Valley

Women teaching other women how to assemble systems

There are pockets like this all over the world and ever since starting W4W I have loved finding these pockets. It may just be habit from my days of surf exploration, but really I think it comes from a bigger notion, one that strikes a very deep chord. It’s the notion of the “forgotten ones” – the people around the world that for whatever reason have found themselves in the shadows. They are out there in the farthest corners with the same basic needs as everyone else, but there’s no ears listening to them.

Village elder thanking me

I absolutely love my work and no matter who the recipient is, it always boils down to this – humans helping humans with the basic needs we are ALL entitled to. That said, I get an extra level of expansion when we get an opportunity to help the “forgotten ones”.

Typical Q'ero hut

From a W4W standpoint this journey was right up our alley – rugged adventure + humanitarianism… it’s what we’ve always done and a perfect example of our philosophy in action: Do what you love to do and help along the way.

Horse and Hut

Thanks to Hurley and badass lens-man, Tom Aiello, this journey was documented. I will let the video do its job at sharing the rest of this epic mission with you. Please check it out… and if you feel inclined to share it, I’m very grateful for it! Also, big ups to Rob Machado for creating/playing the closing song for this video!



Our tents with Alpaca herd behind

Alpaca & Q'ero hut

Valleys for days

Statistics & Progress

Destination Q'ero - Peru

Funds Raised
$9,573 of $10,000

Potential Lives Affected 20,000+