Snowmass Casa Chapi Medical Center

Posted on December 23rd, 2012 in Articles by Nik

This November, my sister Heidi and I had the opportunity to participate in the 2012 Quechua Benefit Mission in Perú. Our family, as Snowmass Alpacas, has sponsored the building of a medical clinic at Casa Chapi. This year, the final construction of the clinic was completed, and we were there to attend the grand opening.

The first phase of our journey involved long flights, layovers, sleep deprivation, white-knuckle bus rides along cliff-side roads, and a rapid acclimation to 12,000+ feet. It was an intense 24 hours, and we were exhausted when we arrived.

As we walked up the drive of Casa Chapi, however, we were quickly rejuvenated as the children came running to greet us with a barrage of joyous laughter and endless hugs — our first taste of the soul medicine to come.

The children who live at Casa Chapi are from the highland villages. Most of their families cannot afford to support their basic survival needs, and some of the kids have been completely abandoned by their parents.

After we had settled in, we took some time to prepare the clinic for the opening. It took a little elbow grease, but we were more than happy to help with these finishing touches. Soon we were ready to open the clinic to patients!

In order to increase the range of our medical services, we had the team split into two groups. One group stayed in Chivay to run the Snowmass Clinic while the other group traveled to see patients in the surrounding villages. During the week, the groups alternated so that everyone had a chance to work at the Snowmass clinic and in the other villages.

A variety of patients came in to be treated for a variety of issues. Common issues included arthritis pain, vitamin deficiency, malnutrition, digestive issues, stomach parasites, and tooth decay. It was difficult to see the illness of some of these people, but it was good to know we were helping them as best we could.

In the course of our short stay, we treated more than 1,700 people! My favorite part of doing the service work was seeing the gratitude in the faces of people we were helping. When the work felt tedious and I found myself getting overwhelmed, a gracious smile from a patient was all it took to rekindle my spirit.  Witnessing the resilience of the Quechua people in the face of their struggles will stick with me as a humbling reminder during my own challenges.

We had one day of rest on a Sunday where we had a chance to see the Colca Canyon. It was another white-knuckle bus ride, but the view of the canyon was well worth it. It is one of the world's deepest canyons and is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon. The rare Peruvian Condors spend their days riding the thermals in the canyon. We were fortunate enough to get some exceptional views of the birds and the Canyon.

For our last evening, we held a ceremony to recognize the successful opening of Casa Chapi and the Clinic. My sister and I cut the ribbon to officially open the Snowmass Community Health Center, after which the local priest gave a benediction. Many dignitaries were in attendance, including the mayor.

After the ceremony, we spent the rest of the evening distributing clothes and shoes to our Casa Chapi kids. The look on their faces was priceless. It was a beautiful last evening.
While my sister and I expected a great experience during this mission, nothing could have prepared us for the deep impact it would leave in our hearts. In our short time spent with the children, we quickly grew to love them like our own family. The greatest thing we gained was a genuine appreciation for the necessity of charity, service, and unconditional love.

In the times we live in, when we battle against the illness that is our own hopelessness, there is no greater cure than the hope that is found in serving others. We look forward to a long life for Casa Chapi, and we hope to return on a regular basis. It is a blessing and honor to be a part of the Quechua Benefit.