Archive for May, 2013

Peru – May 24, 2013

Jon Ross on May 24th 2013



Here in Peru things are moving forward.  We will be breaking ground on the project in Urubamba on Monday, but we hit a snag with our other project in Huacarpay.  (I’ve included an excerpt from an email from a project coordinator, John Kreider, below. )

As you know, the wife (Manuela) of the couple (the man’s name is Valentin) who we wanted to build a house for died.  We all thought that the title to the land was clear, but apparently not.

Manuaela & Valentin's "house" since the 2010 floods

John Kreider, who wrote the email, was helping me coordinate the project with Pastor Celestino

The other project in Urubamba will help the Ormachea-Hermoza family (more than 12 of them) have a decent home.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we will be able to help Valentin in Huacarpay, but the church will continue to care for him.

Email from John Kreider regarding Huacarpay site:

“…I went to Huacarpay today to meet with the architect. Celestino, another

pastor and I were just beginning to measure the lot when about 8 to 10 of

Manuela’s relatives showed up and were very upset that we were measuring

the lot. Their opinion is that the lot does not belong to Manuela and

Valentin. They say they presented a document, something like a will I

think, to the judge in Lucre that shows that Manuela’s sisters are the

owners and not Manuela. I thought this was all sorted out but it quickly

became apparent that it was not. We tried to see the judge to see what

document they presented but the judge had already left for the day.

Celestino is planning to go see the judge tomorrow morning to see what

the document says. I suspect that it will not be possible to build on the

lot since their opinion was that they just let Manuela live there until

she died, even though she had lived there for maybe 30 to 40 years at

least. It seems like the culture here is that the children get the

inheritance and since Manuela doesn’t have any living children, she

doesn’t get anything. The other relatives claim it as theirs instead. I

think Celestino was trying to stand up for Manuela and Valentin’s rights

but I think it is highly unlikely that Valentin will get title to the


…I think it is unlikely that the situation will be able to be resolved any

time soon in order to be able to build there.

Sorry I don’t have better news for you. I was a little caught off guard

when we got there since I thought the situation had been resolved.”

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Peru – May 22, 2013

Jon Ross on May 22nd 2013






It’s a good thing the first week was so pleasant in Cusco, because I forgot how hard it is to build houses in foreign countries.

Here at the second MicroAid project site in Urubamba (2 hours away from Cusco), I’m getting very inflated budget numbers for the house.

Ormachea-Hermoza house since floods of 2010

Also, Urubamba is dry and dusty and a bit depressing. I will be staying here much of the time as well as shuttling back to Cusco to oversee the other project, 45 minutes away, in Huacarpay.

MicroAid will help more than 12 members of the family live in a decent home

I also got sick as a dog last week—chills, body aches, wracking cough.

I think I was lulled into a false sense of security here because there is first-world infrastructure in Cusco.  As opposed to Samoa and Sri Lanka where the harsh environment gives me cues to be on guard.

the Choco Museo is on this bucolic plaza in Cusco

Feeling better now, after a few days in bed.  Using the time to give myself a crash course on pouring concrete foundations.  (Thank goodness for the Internet and Bob Villa.)

Funny how I never really paid close attention to that part when we built all those houses at Habitat.  Granted, I usually started after the slab was poured, because they subcontract that, but still, it is critical to know what it’s all about here.

Also, went to the South American Explorers Club in Cusco for a class in “survival” Spanish.  I wondered if the teacher would go over terms like “rebar,” “3/4-inch gravel,” “footers,” “anchor bolts,” and “Portland cement”?

She did not.

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Peru Travel Log – May 21, 2013

Jon Ross on May 22nd 2013






I got to see the Torrechayoq festival in Urubamba on Sunday.

A day-long parade of dancers and musicians—dozens of crews in different amazing costumes—snaking through the town from 9 a.m. till 7 p.m.

Like the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, except this one goes on all day.

A test of endurance for Jesus.

But also Quechwa celebration and fun.

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Peru – Travel Log – May 14, 2013

Jon Ross on May 15th 2013



Things are good here.  Projects are moving forward—slowly, but surely.

our site in urubamba backs up against another structure

While waiting for plans to be drawn up for the MicroAid homes…

Here are a few pics from an adventure I was taken on over the weekend by some archeologists: a little-visited Inca site about two hours from Cusco.

curved and perfectly matched stones indicate a ceremonial site

We all piled into combis and taxis to get to the ruins near the town of Anta and a half-hour hike up the mountain from a nondescript spot along the road.

Plenty of ancient mojo—with caves with Inca walls inside, sun dials, and alters perfectly aligned with astronomical features.

The site had that “Raiders of the Lost Ark” feel, and one of the archeologists was definitely channeling Indiana Jones.

nobody really knows how the Inca used this “sundial”

We didn’t find any golden idols though, but the potential is still there, I am told, if you know where to look.

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Peru – May 8, 2013

Jon Ross on May 8th 2013


Cusco Calling
I am here in the Sacred Valley of Peru starting the MicroAid projects to build houses for survivor-families of the 2010 floods—in Urubamba and Huacarpay.
As you recall, I met the beneficiaries and did the baseline studies in November last year.  Now that the rainy season is over we can begin construction.  The weather is dry and hot (70s) during the day and cold (30s) at night.
I have had meetings with locals who are helping me coordinate with the builders.  Earlier this week, I visited another project at the Asul Wasi orphanage near the Rio Huatanay in Oro Pesa to study construction techniques.  We will most likely use cinderblock and concrete for our houses as it what the beneficiaries desire, with the added bonus that it will be the most economical and sturdy.


A sad note from Huacarpay: the wife, Manuela, of the older couple for whom we are building a house, passed away a few weeks ago from cancer.  Her husband, Valentin, is OK, but obviously heartbroken. MicroAid will still build a decent home for him.  Also, so that others will benefit from the project after he passes away, Valentin has willed the building to the community—it will be administered by the church for the benefit of the people.  The pastor of the church is already facilitating the project and I am confident that this is the best course of action: give someone a decent home, which will then benefit the community in perpetuity.  Plans for the house are being drawn up and budgets and timelines developed.


As we were leaving a pre-construction meeting, well after dark, with the sky glittering with stars, feeling so near at 12,000 feet, and the Southern Cross hanging majestically above the dark mountains, a shooting star blazed across the Milky Way.  A good omen for the projects.


Thank you for all the support.  We are truly making a huge difference in peoples’ lives—directly, efficiently, and completely.

All the best from Peru.


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