All of the AGEI participants buzzed giddily with excitement on the final Saturday morning of the program. Everyone was excited for what would be - for almost all of them - their first trip to the city of Cusco. After some quick wrap-up activities, staff and participants piled into two vans to make the 1.5-hour drive from Ollantaytambo to Cusco.
The first stop on the big city tour was the Universidad Nacional de Arte Diego Quispe Tito del Cusco, a fine arts college. Participants were met by a professor who explained areas of study, encouraged the girls to apply through the placement program for students from communities in the region, and led a tour of the school to include one of the painting workshops. Next AGEIers walked through the Plaza de Armas, down the cobbled streets of the Incan Empire capital city, and made their way to Qoricancha, a temple at the city center that was very important for Incan religious ceremonies. Participants visited the small museum that lies beneath the grounds of Qoricancha, learning about the construction of the temple and its primary use before the Spanish Conquistadors built the Santo Domingo Church directly on top of much of the site.
With all of this walking and learning, everyone had worked up an appetite! So, after a quick lunch of pollo a la brasa and chicha morada, the final Cusco stop was the mall shopping center! Participants rode the elevator and escalator for the first time, and got to experience the joyous confusion of bumper cars at the arcade. What better way to get out of the post-meal, afternoon slump?! The group, feeling rejuvenated, piled back into the vans to head back for their graduation celebration.
The route back to The Sacred Valley included two important stops. First, Puka Pukara, an archaeological site said to be the Gateway to The Sacred Valley, and the starting point of a system of tunnels created during the Incan Empire, which run from Cusco to various settlements in The Valley. Next, a stop at a beautiful vista point overlooking the town of Pisac and the road that winds down The Valley toward Ollantaytambo. And the final stop: picking up the cake before arriving at the home of SVH’s Director of Operations, Ana, for the graduation and sleepover fiesta!
After snacks and more chicha morada (Escolástica’s special recipe), program staff congratulated and thanked all of the girls for their participation in the AGEI pilot program. Each participant was individually recognized with a certificate and Ayni Wasi goody bag, and were asked to say something about their experience. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, ranging from being grateful to take part in the program, to saying the program will be beneficial to other adolescent girls in their communities whom they hope to educate themselves. (Given that SVH’s core programs operate using a train-the-trainer framework, staff are very excited about the prospect of the AGEI adopting the same format!). The night ended with cake, music, and dancing.
Thank you so much for following the AGEI Pilot Program journey! SVH is grateful for all of the support and donations that made the AGEI pilot program possible and now we are seeking funding to launch a full scale program. Program staff witnessed growth and character building in just a few short weeks with participants, and SVH hopes to reach even more adolescent girls with the launch of a formal program. Staff will be analyzing all data collected to inform a scaled-up AGEI program to be launched in 2020. Please consider making a donation to support the launch of our formal AGEI program!
Cusco Group Photo