Recently Viviana sent a first-quarter update to our board members, and she gave me permission to share it with all of you as well. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did!
As you all know, Doris is in Israel, learning about her Self and thriving as she discovers her own abilities to create a beautiful life and to reinvent herself. We are in touch almost daily thanks to technology; she’s still adjusting to the changes in time, weather, language, and the new culture; she enjoys working in the palm forest and learning to live in an anarchist society where each individual is her/his own leader developing ethical life for themselves and all other members in the community.
The youth in Cusco are learning to understand themselves and their own actions. Avishai and I are going to the Cusco apartment once a week to spend quality time with them and to supervise their activities. Each kid is doing great at school, they appreciate the opportunity to have higher education and they see how important this is in a country like ours in order to provide for themselves.
The high schoolers in Urubamba are a delight! they all are doing well, maturing in a beautiful way and learning to deal with heir emotions and the changes that teenage life brings. They are thriving at school, all of them are top students in their classrooms and they are now preparing dances and sport competitions for the upcoming mother day’s celebrations. Sonq’o will be 16 years old on May 9th; right after he will have surgery to repair his nose’s septum that was broken when he was 3 or 4 years old; He never received care for it until recently that he began to have a series of sinuses infections and eye problems. We are working on obtaining health insurance offered by the government, if Sonq’o does not qualify for it, the operating physician will give us a break on costs.
Leo, our oldest kid, will turn 24 years old this year; he has been back and forth on his personal development and is often coming home looking for emotional support. He’s currently working at a 5 star Vegan Restaurant in Cusco where he’s learning a new cuisine and where he’s staying for the last 3 months! very unusual for him that was often leaving jobs after a couple of weeks. We talked with him regarding his tendency for self-sabotage and told him that if he showed he could stay at the same job for a minimum of 6 months we would work on having him go to Israel as he asked. We spoke with the kids living in Cusco about the possibility of allowing Leo to return to live with them; they all agreed about bringing him back if this will support his well being and his growth. If Leo was to return, it will be under very clear guidelines.
Our volunteer Kiva, has requested to continue working with us until September, but to live somewhere else to maintain her privacy and to develop her own life while in Peru as she stated to us. This is a new model of volunteering; her participation at our program is limited to provide driving, English, Health and Sexuality classes twice a week. She began to teach English last Saturday afternoon, her class was a success! the kids were engaged and happy to have a private English teacher. Her driving classes are always highly appreciated since she’s a patient, understanding, driving teacher. Kellye, Ermelinda, and Belisario are preparing to take their respective driving tests in the next 2 weeks. Until now, Kiva was joining our staff meetings, apart from having a regular staff meeting, we’ll have a separate weekly volunteer meeting.
A new volunteer is already on board to begin working with us from September 2019 to September 2020; our first volunteer planning to stay with us for 1 year!! His name is Leo, he’s French, 29 years old; fully tri-lingual (French, Spanish, English) currently living in Paris; works in Theater and Film both as an actor and as a director. Our kids are familiar with Leo since he stayed with us for a couple of weeks, and they like him a lot. We’re happy to have a young male role model for our boys.
We are grateful and very proud of our older kids living in Cusco; Ermelinda comes to Urubamba every weekend to stay with the kids until Sunday early evening; then Zenobia comes to stay with the kids through Sunday night and to make sure all are ready on time to return to school on Monday morning; Belisario comes every Saturday afternoon to teach Math, Geometry, and Trigonometry to the kids that need support on those subjects; Raul and Jorge come some weekends to organize hikes and soccer games; Jose joins some weekends when he’s not working; Ada is learning to live in Cusco as she started her preparatory academy to apply to Veterinarian School; Lisbeth is happy at the Arts School at the University Extension in Calca and she loves being able to continue living at the Urubamba home.
I want to share with you some teachings from Yogi Bajhan regarding raising children; this beautiful teacher guides me in my attempt to guide our children: “We want to create dependable children, NOT dependent children. We want to give them basic values to face their tomorrows, not to be blinded by ours. We want to make them proper personalities, not helpless puppets. We want to position them for success, not to paralyze them with the commotion of our emotions” … this is a guide for us to follow, this is how we work with our kids.
Viviana Martinez Executive Director, Ninos Del Sol
Our girls face even more social obstacles than the boys when it comes to education, and moving to the big city to go to college can be quite daunting.
Viviana and I talked about this when I was visiting last spring, and she thought it might help for them to have more fun outings to Cusco. She wants them to feel more familiar with the city, and to see it as a fun and welcoming place, and view themselves as capable there. I love the way Viviana shapes the kids’ world view. In so many ways, self-image is destiny.
I was looking for fun ways to connect with the kids in smaller groups, so I was excited to take the girls to town. (I am very fortunate that I get to swoop in and do fun things with the kids when I’m in town and I don’t have to deal with any of the harder work of raising them. Raul once said I’m like their grandma, and I could only laugh, because I knew what he meant!)
I ended up with three girls in my group: Ada, Doris, and Marlitt. We visited the Ccochawasi Animal Sanctuary, had lunch, and then had a private flamenco lesson in our apartment in Cusco. Our volunteer, Kiva, came along and the day was loads of fun.
Each mountain has a poem
On the way to Cusco, the girls told Kiva and I the stories of the mountains. These are mostly legends of ill-fated lovers. Our driver Lucho was really impressed by how much the girls know, and he told us that these stories are poems in Quechua (which makes sense, since it’s not a written language and rhymes make stories easier to remember).
Knowing that the mountains have poems made me love them even more.
Ccochawasi Animal Sanctuary
We didn’t take any photos during the flamenco class — we were all much too engaged in learning and trying not to be embarrassed! But Kiva and I both got photos at Ccochawasi Animal Sanctuary. If you’re coming to Peru soon, definitely include it on your list of fun places to visit!
Ada (the girl in the white baseball cap in these photos) even asked about volunteering at Ccochawasi. I’m not sure it’s going to work out with her school schedule, but I think our visit helped energize her and motivate her in her studies. She’s moving to Cusco this year to begin her medical training as a veterinarian!
The Niños returned from their trip to Lima last night. They left at 1 in the morning, drove 16 hours over the mountains, and arrived home exhausted. But when we asked them if they would like to send thank-you notes to the donors who made their trip possible, they jumped at the chance.
Of course, they talked about how much they loved seeing the zoo, the Nazca lines, and the coast. They also touched on the bonding that happens when the whole family travels together. That bonding is so important, as these teenagers move towards adult life and need all the support they can get.
The kids did not articulate some of what we know as adults — that their world is suddenly bigger, the way they see their place in it is stronger, and new possibilities are open for their futures that were never open before. For all that, we, the adults, thank you!
We’re so grateful to our new volunteer, Kiva Celeste, and our Global Family members Dylan and Henry Presman, and to our Administrator, Kellye Callañaupa, for the additional chaperoning support and photos.
Here are some of the messages from the kids, in their own words and then translated into English:
Yo estoy muy agradecida por todo el apoyo que nos pudieron brindar, fue una paseo inolvidable, gracias a todos ustedes pude agrandar más mis sueños, me divertí mucho con todos mis hermanos que nos vimos de mucho tiempo, empezar una año de esa manera fue algo grandioso. *Ada*
I was very grateful for all of the support that was granted to us, it was an unforgettable trip, thank you to all who granted my dreams, I had a wonderful time with all of my siblings whom I’d seen for a long time, beginning the year this way was great * Ada *
Ami me gustó muchísimo el paseo porque fuimos al parque de las leyendas ,parque del agua y fue muy hermoso porque toda la familia estaba en ahi y gracias por todo el apoyo q nos brindaste *Luis*
I loved the trip because we went to the Park of the Legends (zoo), water park and it was beautiful because the whole family was there, thank you so much for the gift of your support * Luis *
A mí me gustó la playa y las líneas de Nazca *Rusbel*
I enjoyed the beach and Nazca lines * Rusbel *
Gracias. Por el viaje. Estubo muy bonita experiencia con la familia. Fuimos al parque de las leyendas donde conocí muchos animales que solo vería en imágenes como jirafa, hipopótamo;tigre y monitos pequeñitos .Gracias a todos ustedes pudimos tener una bonita experiencia. *Lisbet*
Thank you for the trip, it was a beautiful experience with the family. We went to the park of the legends where I met many animals that I had only seen in imagination like the giraffes, hippos, tigers and tiny monkeys. Thank you to you for the beautiful experience * Lisbet *
Gracias por la bonita experiencia y por el apoyo brindado ,este viaje fue vivir nuevamente y sentir una familia ,bueno en este viaje conocí muchos lugares y aprendí mucho y en este viaje a Lima el sonido del mar unico el tráfico molesto visítamos el parque de las leyendas , parque de las aguas ,plaza principal de lima ,casa de la literatura,las catacumbas y lo más importante fue ver que los niños maduraron y crecieron como personas y ver el apoyo entre ellos gracias por todo. *Soraida*
Thank you for the beautiful experience, and for the gift of support, this was a trip where I relived and felt like a family. Well, in this trip I experienced many places and learned a lot in this trip to Lima with the uniquely oceanic sound of angry traffic we visited the park of the legends, water park, the main square of Lima, house of literature, the catacombs and the most important part was to see the children mature and grow as persons as well as to experience their mutual support, thank you all * Soraida *
Yo estoy agradecida por la oportunidad de haber ido de vacaciones con mi familia a conocer un poco más de mí país me gustó más el zoológico del parque de las leyendas pero me dio pena verlos ahí encerrados me gustó también cuando fuimos a ver las líneas de Nasca fue increíble que esas líneas no se borren y sigan intactas como hace 2000 años atrás me sorprendió ver cómo es el centro sobre cómo el gobierno teme a la gente del pueblo y pone tanta seguridad también me gustó la playa y la piscina gracias por esta oportunidad *Doris*
I’m grateful for the opportunity to vacation with my family and to learn a little more about my country. I enjoyed the zoo of the park of legends most, but I was sad to see [animals] them caged, I also enjoyed the Nasca lines, those lines incredibly were never and have been intact over 2000 years. I was surprised to see how the government fears the country people and how a consequence how much security they employ. I also enjoyed the beach and pool, thank you all for this opportunity * Doris *
Muchas gracias por hacer posible este viaje está experiencia fue nuevavpara mi …me gustó mucho ir a todos los lugares que visitamos no nos faltó nada….. Teníamos todo muchas gracias por el apoyo ….. Está experiencia me gustó muchisimo todos estuvimos más unidos y contentos muchas gracias ….. Conocimos muchos lugares *Zenobia*
Many thanks for making this trip possible, this was a new experience for me, I very much enjoyed going to all of the places that we visited, we lacked for nothing, we had everything, thank you so much for your support. I enjoyed this experience very much, we were all so close and happy, thank you so much. We got to know so many places *Zenobia*
Thank you for your ongoing support of Niños Del Sol. With your help, the kids are thriving and growing into healthy, happy, young people with the power to do beautiful things in the world.
Our organization is made up of two separate pieces: The Peruvian organization (headed by Viviana and Avishai) handles all aspects of programming, while the US organization (headed by our Board) handles fundraising and provides some financial oversight.
US Board Elections
This month, our US board held its annual election. Our board members and their current roles are:
Lauren Haas, Chairperson
Joshua Sandstrom, Vice Chairperson
Josh Brazier, Treasurer
Glenn Zahler, Secretary
Ram Krishan Kaur Khalsa, Director
Staff Appreciation Dinner
For a while now, as Board Chair, I’ve wished our board to show its appreciation for our staff each year, but during all the crises of the past few years, it simply didn’t happen.
This year, I am in Peru and Avishai approached me with an idea similar to the one I’ve had — a special dinner for the staff to gather and relax together. Avishai’s idea blossomed into something much more meaningful than a restaurant meal, though.
Since the kids have just moved into their new apartment in Cusco and most of us hadn’t seen it yet, we decided to have dinner there. The guests were me (Lauren, US Board Chair), Viviana (Executive Director), Avishai (Associate Director), Kellye (Administrator and full-time tutor), and Benita (part-time cook and all-around friend to the Niños for many years).
The board members sent funding to pay for the day, and the Niños donated their labor to make it happen for us: Raul did the shopping, Jose cooked our dinner, Zenobia made a beautiful fruit salad for us, and Marco offered a guided tour of the Cusco plaza. Afterward, we all went out for ice cream together.
We are really grateful to the Board and the kids for making this happen, and to Avishai for putting it all together. It was a very special day for all of us!
We celebrated Doris’s 18th birthday on February 6 with a surprise party in Avishai and Viviana’s home.
Lots of musicians were there, including a tiny drummer who spent most of her time on Doris’s lap. How typical of Doris’s generous spirit that she didn’t mind sharing the spotlight on her birthday at all. She even laughed when her little friend poked a toe in the cake frosting!
The party was attended by lots of friends, and we all took turns telling Doris our wishes for her in her adult life. Doris completed the ceremony by offering wishes for our lives in return.
You can leave your own wishes for Doris in the comment space below.
What’s next for Doris? Hold on to your seat, this is exciting!
Niños Del Sol has had a lot of volunteers from Israel over the years, and Avishai and Viviana have been talking about some of our kids volunteering in exchange at a kibbutz in Israel. Viviana’s nephew went last year to test the waters, and we hear that this experience is just as powerful and life-changing as volunteering in Peru.
Doris (who already speaks Spanish, Quechua, English, a bit of Portuguese and a few words of Japanese) will be the first adventurer among our Niños to make the trip. She and I are going to work together to create a fundraiser for her airfare — I’ll update you on that as it develops.
Please leave your own wishes for Doris below and I’ll make sure she sees them!
Kristen Stuart, a powerful and loving leader in the yoga world who has been a dear friend to the Niños for years, is organizing a benefit concert for us in Alberta!
The concert, scheduled for October 29, will feature the international mantra and pop artist Ajeet Kaur at the Canmore Opera House.
Ajeet Kaur is a recording artist in the realm of kundalini yoga and sacred chant. Her music is a spiritual practice of sound, described by Sound Voyage this way:
From the first note, Ajeet Kaur’s voice feels like the warmth of the earth rising through your body, creating a sense of inexplicable peace that helps you suddenly relax in a knowing that you are connected to every living being through this sacred sound.
Her music is making its way around the world, bringing peace and healing to thousands. This concert is a benefit for Niños Del Sol, and you can help support the event in three ways:
Kristen is looking for donations to sponsor the band so 100% of ticket sales can go directly to Niños del Sol. The band cost is $4000 CAD so any and all donations (suggested min $200) is helpful. You will receive a tax receipt from Niños del Sol (a US Registered Charity) for your donation.
Consider donating an item or service for the silent auction
Purchase a ticket(s) to attend this intimate (100 pax capacity) concert.
I love hearing from members of our Global Family who started with a small donation and are ready to increase it! Of course, I’m also here for people who’ve had a change in their circumstances and need to suspend their monthly donations. Or maybe you just want your donation to be taken out on a different day of the month; I can help with that as well.
Our kids love to cook. If you’ve watched our original video with Mama Kia, you might remember her saying that she never had to deal with a picky eater in this crowd — children who’ve known food scarcity in their youth know how to appreciate the joy of food abundance.
Avishai’s love of food and cooking has rubbed off on the kids. Leo has attended chef’s school, and Zenobia is studying to be a pastry chef. Luis loves to help Leo create, and our youngest, Soledad, spends her spare time inventing new desserts.
But as anyone who cooks knows, when you run out of new ideas, cooking becomes a chore very quickly.
That’s why we’re so delighted when Gina DeVee, a vital member of our Global Family, offered to send us cookbooks earlier this summer. She put a lot of work into finding the right books to work within our approach to nutrition and learning, and then had to coordinate with someone who was traveling to Peru to get them to us — but her effort is paying off spectacularly. The books have brought an explosion of creativity and fun to our kitchen. Here are some photos from last weekend, when the kids whipped up a spectacular fruit dessert.
This kind of creative support from our Global Family has helped our kids to build bonds as siblings, heal from trauma together, experience joy, and stimulate learning. This is why our kids are so successful academically, and I hope that success will follow them into adult life and help them impact their own families and communities in positive ways.
Now that our kids are teenagers, we’re often asked why they don’t get part-time jobs to help cover their expenses. For someone who lives in the United States or Europe, this seems like a really natural way for a teen to gain experience, learn responsibility, and help out a household that is struggling financially.
Child Labor in Peru
But Peru doesn’t have the same labor laws as many first-world countries. Most teenagers who work in Peru — especially indigenous kids like ours who live outside Lima — have to choose between work and school, because jobs here don’t build their schedules around a student’s schedule.
“Almost a third – 28% – of all children and adolescents in the Andean country have a job. They are aged between six and 17, are poor, and often do dangerous work in mining and construction. The government wants to get these boys and girls off work and into full-time education.”
Even small employers in the villages of the Sacred Valley often exploit kids. One of our boys had a job for a little while refilling batteries, which involved working with toxic chemicals in uncomfortable conditions. He did this work for several weeks and then his employer refused to pay him, saying he was offering the boy valuable “job training” instead of money!
What We’re Doing
In Cusco, where better opportunities exist, our college kids are required to seek part-time work to cover some of their own expenses. Jorge does deliveries for a local restaurant, working for a trusted friend of Avishai’s who values his education. Jose Luis, who is studying graphic design, is serving a practicum arranged through the university, editing video footage for a drone company. This kind of work is very valuable for the kids, although it doesn’t provide enough extra funds for them to help support the house.
In Urubamba, we do our best to create opportunities for the kids to work, so they can learn the value of earning money, being on time, and bringing a good attitude to work. We’ve empowered them to create hikes and classes that they can offer to tourists, and you — our Global Family — have been very generous about supporting this program when you visit the Valley.
But for the most part, we focus on healing our kids’ emotional wounds (remember that all of them are survivors of trauma and abuse, in addition to being orphaned and/or abandoned and living through Mama Kia’s passing) and on their education, so they can be empowered to break free from cycles of poverty and labor abuse that are so common here. They contribute to the household by following a schedule of household chores which helps them learn to follow directions, work as a team, and pay attention to details.
Your support allows us to do this work. We receive no government funding or grants at all; we are 100% dependent on donations from our Global Family to pay for staff salaries, therapy, secure housing, school expenses, and college tuition to help these kids break free. Thank you for all you are doing for them, we are grateful every day for your support!
P.s. Here’s a very powerful video if you have time to learn more about what we’re protecting our kids from.
This quote describes so beautifully why we treasure education for our Niños.
“Because we are Quechua, because we speak our language and live according to our customs, and because we don’t know how to read and write, we live in the world of the night. We have no eyes, and we are invalids like the blind. In contrast, those who know how to read and write live in daylight. They have eyes. It is senseless to stay in the world of darkness because we must progress to be like those who go to school and have eyes. Going to school, we open our eyes, we awake.”
Peru: Inequality of Education for Indigenous Groups, the Neglected Class
Cusco kids have serious problems in education
This is a country where many children are not succeeding in school because of poverty or stress in the home. In the Cusco area, 56% of adolescents are below grade level in communication skills, and 88% of 11th graders are underperforming in mathematics. More than half (52%) of all teens in the Cusco area are enrolled in grades that do not correspond to their age, and dropout rates are high.*
Our Niños are very different
Nearly all of our kids are finishing high school and going on to post-secondary education. Ada, Lisbett, Luis, Soledad, and Rusbel are all at the very top of their class in school. Ermelinda was the youngest student ever accepted into the Chemical Engineering program at Cusco University, and she will graduate this year. Jose Luis and Belisario are also currently attending University, while their housemates in Cusco have all completed high school and are pursuing career education.
Why are our kids so successful?
Because of you.
Our donors know that it’s not enough to feed and warehouse children until they reach maturity — kids who are not nourished intellectually and supported through education cannot easily break the cycle of poverty and abuse that made them orphans in the first place. Your generosity allows us to provide them with a real home life and the clothing and experiences they need to fit in with their classmates and have the cultural literacy of a successful Peruvian.
Many of our Niños are attending private academies or are already at University, which is expensive but vital to their ultimate success in life. Our higher staff to child ratio means we can help with homework, conference with teachers, and support their education in ways a less expensive program cannot.
Thank you for understanding this, and for valuing what we do here. It is your ongoing support, love, and trust that enable our children to thrive beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. <3
This update is from Avishai, our Associate Director.
In our recent staff meeting, I found myself saying “In my view, this period of the last few months have been the most harmonious time we had at the Casa since Viviana and I started in 2013.”
The others nodded their heads in agreement.
Now, this is something to celebrate!
There are always challenges, on several levels, some with the Ninos themselves, others with financial issues, staff issues, or other tests and tribulations.
We have all been through intense tests over the last few years.
So what is different now? What makes us say that this is a more harmonious period?
I think all who visited the Casa in the last few months have commented on that aspect.
There are no big fights, no tensions, no conflicts, the Ninos and staff are getting along with one another, La Familia is strong, older helping younger, there is much creativity, mutual support playfulness and laughter.
Most chores are done by the Niños (now teenagers) willingly and on time, often with loud music in the kitchen…
Kelley, who has been the Assistant Director, House Mother, and Administrator for nearly 4 years is fulfilling her role beautifully and shows her love and care with all Ninos daily.
Nitzan and Romi, our Israeli volunteers have been with us for over 4 months and will stay until September, completing 6 months. They are solid, creative, mature and present with the Ninos and our projects. Romi has been inspired to add much art, creativity, and murals, and also making the kitchen and dining room more orderly and welcoming.
Nitzan delights us with very creative desserts, utilizing our heavy duty Vita-Mix more than ever before, and finding creative ways to recycle leftovers, a really important talent! Giving ongoing driving lessons with some of the older Ninos have also been a blessing, and soon some of them will be ready for the test.
Our longest standing staff member, Doña Benita the cook, has been with the Ninos for over 12 years, and provides nourishing, delicious meals during the week.
We emphasize using local, seasonal products, and most of our vegetables are harvested by the Ninos from a nearby organic farm, owned by our friend Javier, who has been donating produce to us weekly for over 3 years.
On the weekends while Benita is at her home, the Ninos cook, supported by the volunteers. Girls cook on Saturday, Boys on Sunday.
We are grateful for our staff!
We are also grateful daily for our international family of donors and supporters.
Without all of you we would not have been able to do what we are doing.
We extend our blessings to all our friends who visit, bring needed supplies and donations, stay in touch, keep the Ninos in your prayers and give what you can.
May you and your family continue to thrive in these interesting, challenging times.
Thanks again and again for sharing this wild ride with us, it takes a big international village to raise our happy, healthy Ninos!
Note from Lauren:
Our donors have made this possible. It’s difficult to find harmony when you’re worried about losing your home, your staff is wondering if they’ll ever be paid, and the kids are competing over scarce resources to fulfill their needs.
Many of our new donors from last year are beginning to fall away. I hope you’ll consider joining us as an ongoing donor this year so our harmony can continue!
We’ve been so lucky to have Romy and Nitzan, a beautiful Israeli couple, working with for six months. They arrived on the day we were departing for summer vacation with the kids and jumped straight into the van with us. This beautiful couple has eased our workload tremendously while leaving their mark on both the kids and the Casa. We will be so sorry to see them go in September. ~ Lauren
Here is a note directly from our beautiful volunteers, Nitzan and Romy
After being here for almost 5 months, we began to understand the meaning of our “mission.” We are here to learn and grow together with the kids, to show an example to each other and reflect the lessons we have to each other.
During the days that we are here with the kids, we experience their routine. Waking up at 6:00 to make breakfast or to go for a walk with the dogs is an experience we really want to integrate into our lives. Having the possibility to be for a long time surrounded by the high mountains and diverse nature is a beautiful gift we are giving ourselves in this amazing adventure.
In addition to that, getting to know the kids teaches us to be grateful for our possitive full-of-luck life story and choices we make to create our reality.
So far we succeded to lead a photography class, Boys/girls circles, cooking, driving lessons, competitions, arts & crafts that already made some profit and a good lesson of creating a fundraising event together.
A week ago we had a group of volunteers that came from france to teach us how to work with volunteers 😉 with a big group and a lot of energy !!!
With Rebecca the mural artist and the help of everyone in the house we managed to provide an amazing outcome in a week – working in the garden, building stairs, and decorating the entire house with magical murals all over the walls
The house looks amazing and it makes us really happy every morning when we first go out of the room , we can feel the new atmosphere in the house!
We are here for another month and a half, so it’s a good time for the right new people to arrive as long term volunteers. We highly reccomend visiting and beeing part of this family here in the beautiful Sacred Valley in the Andes.
Definitely a life-changing experience for whoever wishes to grow!
From our point of view, this organization is really making the best from the donations that arrive and we are grateful to be in service here today.
Gratitude and Love to our Global Family for making possible that this garden of life blooms to the fullest! with your ongoing support, the children are able to continue nourishing their dreams and hopes for a good future, breaking the chain of abandonment, abuse, limitation, and poverty. Here’s what each of the kids is up to at the moment:
Our Casa was recently graced with a very special presence. Rebecca Schisler, who is an artist, mindfulness educator, and youth mentor, brought a group of 30 energetic and talented teens from France into our space and they created magic.
The volunteers and our Niños worked together to cover large swathes of bare concrete with magical patterns and colors, completely transforming our space. It was an intense time of creativity and joy for the kids, and the group literally left their mark on our home.
Thank you, Rebecca & friends! It’s safe to say you will always be remembered here. <3
Last year, we had our most effective campaign ever on a platform called “Rootfunding.” This platform allows our supporters to each set up their own fundraising page and commit to finding 10 friends who are willing to donate $25/month each.
A small handful of fundraisers were able to bring in over $1,000 a month in revenue — money we can count on to pay the children’s rent and tuition every month, and to pay our beautiful staff a living wage.
It’s time for another Rootfunding campaign, and we’re hoping for an even larger success. If we can generate $3,000 per month in revenue, we will be able to pay all our bills and staff salaries every month going forward. It’s hard to even imagine living in peace and prosperity after our long dark struggle.
Set your goalI recommend $250/month, which is 10 friends each giving $25/monthly
Talk to your friends. Replace Rootfunding’s default text with a couple of paragraphs telling why you love Niños del Sol. I recommend starting with the sentence “Can you give just $25 a month?” because it will show up in Facebook sharing and it lets people know what you’re asking at the very beginning.
Choose a photo. You can replace our video with your own image or video if you want. A photo of you with some of the kids will be very powerful, if you have one!
Share your campaign on social media and by e-mail.
Keep sharing until you’ve reached your goal! You may only get one donor each time you share, so don’t give up!Last year I shared my page about 3-4 times a week and it took 3 weeks to meet my goal.
That’s it. If you’d like to see what a branch campaign looks like, check out my page at this link. Note at the bottom I said “We are a 501c3 charity in the United States. We hold a Platinum rating from Guidestar, and Great NonProfits has named us a 2018 Top-Rated NonProfit.” Giving people this information helps them know they can trust us to manage their funds well.
Thank you, always, for your financial and emotional support, and for the trust you place in us. We are grateful every day for our donors, supporters, and friends around the world.
Niños Del Sol has earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. This is the highest level of recognition from the world’s largest source of nonprofit information.
We’ve been working very hard to make sure your donations are treated with the utmost respect and care. We’re doing it for you, but we’re very proud to have this recognition of our work from Guidestar.
To reach the Platinum level, we added extensive information to our Nonprofit Profile: basic contact and organizational information; in-depth financial information; quantitative information about goals, strategies, and progress toward our mission.
A few weeks ago, we were turned down for a large donation because our cost per child is too high. We were disappointed, of course, and we looked into what the average cost per child is for orphanages in countries like Peru to see if we could move our program closer to that expectation. What we learned made us commit even harder to our program exactly as it is, and here’s why.
As a donor, you are always invited to visit us in the Sacred Valley!
We don’t always have a bed available, but we can help you find lodging that suits your budget, and we’d love for you to join us for fresh organic lunches at the Casa every day and get to know the kids.
We don’t have a short-term volunteer program, but some of our donors like to offer the kids a special class, work in the garden, or just hang out and help the kids practice their English skills. I loved taking the kids out for pizza and going on other adventures with them.
We can help you arrange for a driver to pick you up at the airport in Cusco. We can also help you find the tours, treks, and Machu Picchu packages you want while you’re here. Flights are expensive, but the rest is affordable and we’ll make it easy for you.
So remember, next time you’re wondering where to go on vacation, that you have family in Peru who’d love to see you! E-mail me at [email protected] to get the ball rolling, or any time you have a question.
P.S If you’re not a donor yet and would like join our Global Family, we’d love to have you. Click here to add your small monthly donation to our family’s budget.
The year is well on its way! We have all children returning to school after having a great ending to their summer’s vacation thanks to your generous support.
From all 15 children, two were the only ones that previously experienced the sea; now all of them are grateful and happy to have seen the Ocean and played in the sand as they saw how the colors of the sky changed with the sun rises and sunsets.
Avishai took upon himself to organize and care for all kids on this epic journey to the Southern Peruvian Coast; he had great support from Kellie (the children’s in-home tutor) and our two brand new volunteers, Nitzan and Romi, that just arrived on the same morning when everyone was going on the trip.
All kids are thriving and becoming more conscious of themselves and their paths, each of them is excelling at what they do and want to learn more about the world and everything there is for them to contribute to transformation.
Soledad’s two older sisters (Lisbett 16 and Marlitt 13) that recently joined the family are adjusting very well and all girls and boys at home are doing a wonderful job in making them feel welcome.
Our US Board President, Lauren, has been a magnificent addition to de Ninos del Sol’s family, she was with us in Peru for a couple of months, the children enjoyed her loving presence every time she gifted them with a special day at her magic garden. Lauren not only works for the Ninos del Sol home to continue, but she took the time to know each child and their dreams, for that we are all grateful.
The owner of the building in which the NdS’s home is now adding a new third floor in which we’re planning to have spaces to continue with Kundalini Yoga practice, a room for arts and crafts and a space for a ping-pong table. The laundry area is moving up to the rooftop where we will be installing a new washing machine which was donated by our friends from the Telluride Yoga group from Colorado … all kids are very grateful since now they will be able to do part of their laundry in a machine instead of doing all by hand!!
Over the last year, we have seen an amazing transformation thanks to your ongoing support and an effective US Board led by our brilliant new US Board’s President, Lauren Haas. The atmosphere of goodwill and mutual support at home is better than it has ever been.
We thank you all for everything you do, we look forward to having your visit and for you to see the beautiful fruits of our shared work.
Erme is in her final year of Chemical Engineering at the university. She’s grown from a sweet girl into a competent and responsible young woman. We’ve hired Ermelinda to supervise the younger kids at the casa in Urubamba on weekends, when our staff has days off. She hopes to work in the water treatment industry, which is super important in Peru as the glaciers melt and the country heads toward a water crisis.
Jose Luis has a year and a half to go in his Graphic Design studies. He’s been learning to create web pages and will begin computer animation soon. He’s also working part-time as a waiter and leads tours of Cusco for visitors. Next semester, Jose has started his practicum, editing drone videos for a local Cusco firm. He hopes to work in computer animation.
Like several of the other kids, Jorge decided to leave the Casa and try things on his own for a while. It’s been our policy to let them explore and give them another chance if they choose to return, and we’re thrilled to welcome Jorge to the Cusco apartment. He’s working in an Israeli restaurant (where he’s become a favorite of the owner) and will begin his studies in Business Administration in April.
Zenobia has also been out on her own for a while, but she’s chosen to return to Niños Del Sol. She’s recently moved into the Cusco apartment and will soon begin her studies as a pastry chef. We’re so happy to have Zenobia back in the fold.
Marco is in Cusco competing with 40 other musicians for one of just three spots in the Music Program at the university. He’s interested in all styles of music, but particularly in hip hop, fusion, and Flamenco guitar. Marco is also very interested in Kundalini yoga, and he enjoys interacting with tourists and leading tours of Cusco for visitors.
We’re so proud of Rayshiel. Because of her excellent attitude and English skills, Ray was hired straight out of her hospitality studies by PeruRail after she served her practicum with them. She loves her job, and loves living and working in Ollantaytambo, but she spends weekends in Cusco with her NdS siblings. Ray was recently promoted to working in the first class coach, and she is the youngest employee in the company!
At the Casa in Urubamba
Doris’s cheerful personality and million-watt smile light up the Casa every day. We can see the growth in her independence and confidence after her trip to Brazil last year. Doris just completed high school and will soon decide if she is going to work, study or travel; she has expressed an interest in studying psychology.
Ada is holding firm to her intention to become a veterinarian. She makes friends with animals everywhere we go, and is also drawn to babies and small children. She hopes to follow in Doris’s footsteps to Brazil this year to broaden her horizons and explore the world on her own a bit. Ada is entering her last year in high school.
Sonqo is the “old soul” of the casa, a boy with wisdom and maturity beyond his years — and his own unique fashion sense as well. Like many of the kids, Sonqo has enjoyed getting to know his extended family in Peru during the school break. He also takes his responsibilities as an uncle very seriously, doting on Maria Flor and her baby, Gael.
Luis has been studying at the Collegio UNI Academia for the past few months, and has just been admitted there as a student. The UNI is a college-prep program for high-achieving students, and Luis worked hard to be accepted. He’s a bright boy with a bright future, and we’re eager to see where he will land. He can usually be spotted spoiling the dogs with table scraps or chasing his younger brother Rusbel, and nearly always has a smile on his face.
As the youngest boy, Rusbel works hard at harassing his siblings and keeping the adults on their toes. But Rusbel is also a gifted artist and a very bright student. He recently tested into the Collegio UNI Academia, a school for high-achieving students, where he’ll be attending with his brother Luis.
Our baby girl is growing up; Sol had her 11th birthday in January. She’s still a bright, curious girl, at the top of her class at school. Sol has developed a serious interest in baking and is always eager to learn new things. Right now, Sol is very excited to be welcoming two of her sisters to the Casa (see below).
Lisbet & Marlit (and Lourdes)
Soledad is one of six siblings, and they’ve all kept in touch over the years. Sol came to live with us because she was too young to be placed in the Catholic orphanage where the other three girls grew up. This year that facility is closing, so we’re very excited to welcome two of Sol’s sisters, Lisbet (13 and Marlit (16), to Niños Del Sol. A third sister, Lourdes (pictured in green) has already graduated, but she’s been spending time with us around the Casa and is a delightful addition to our extended family.
Kids we support out of home
Maria Flor is 18 and living in Cusco with her baby, Gael. We still offer her emotional support and all the Niños are in love with the baby and take their roles as aunts and uncles very seriously.
Soraida is 21 an lives in Urubamba. She works in a local restaurant and intends to go back to school to study early childhood education. If she goes back to school, we’ll help with her tuition.
Luisa, 21, is a young mother now and lives in Yucay with her family. We still stay in touch with her and help her when we can.
Every day we are so grateful to our donors (and especially to Hayley Dickson and friends) who helped us replace our failing van with this wonderful truck last year.
The truck has been perfect for hauling the older kids’ things to the apartment in Cusco so they can begin the next step of their life journey.
The Niños are on their summer break from school right now, and most are visiting relatives in their communities, building family connections and learning about their heritage. Without the truck, we’d never have been able to reach some of these beautiful mountain communities!
Boys, bikes, dogs, and a long pole for picking fruit fit easily in the back — and our dogs Layla and Kiwicha love being able to ride along with us!
Avishai and Viviana have moved their retreat offerings to a new location — Samana Wasi Hostel.
Samana Wasi is a gorgeous, well-established hotel above Urubamba. It offers a beautiful yoga space, an island with a fire pit accessible by foot bridge, a swimming pool, and lush scenery.
The new space is infused with a deeply peaceful spiritual energy, and offers comfy beds, sparkling bathrooms, indoor and outdoor gathering spaces, and, most importantly, a full-service staff that was lacking in our former location.
Avishai and Viviana will continue to provide ceremonies, classes, and connections with local resources to help retreat leaders offer their guests the best the Valley has to offer.
100% of proceeds support Niños Del Sol at this time. It is our intention that, as the Niños grow and leave home, this will become Avishai and Viviana’s business exclusively, but of course their close connection with the Niños will never end.
Erika and her group from Telluride Yoga Festival have worked together to send the funds we needed. Avishai, Rusbel, Luis and I (along with Kiwicha and Layla) went shopping on Tuesday for the machine and picked out a doozy. We’re so excited!
We can’t have it put in yet because our landlord is currently adding another level to the Casa. (We used some of our Giving Tuesday money to prepay rent so he’d have the funds to do it). Soon we’ll have a third floor, with a laundry room, yoga/meditation space, and/or game room.
This is lifechanging for the kids, who’ve been hand-washing their own laundry since they were little.
Thank you, Erika and Telluride yogis, and also Giving Tuesday donors!
We got approved at the last minute for a HipGive campaign, which puts us in line for $50,000 in matching donations on #givingtuesday. When you donate through the link on this page, your donation will be DOUBLED!
We love the whole idea of offsetting the energetic damage from Black Friday and Cyber Monday with a day of giving and thinking of others. Here’s why we hope you’ll choose Niños Del Sol instead of one of the big-box charities this year:
Small Donations Make A Big Difference Here
Ninos Del Sol is raising a group of children in the Sacred Valley in Peru. Our kids came to us with nothing. They had no parents to protect them in the world. We are raising them as a family, with lots of love, yoga, organic food, hugs, education, and empowerment. We support them on a very tight budget, growing a lot of our own food and earning some of our revenue by working in the community. No big administrator salaries here — our entire salary expenditure is less than $5,000 per month for our whole staff. Our donations this year have ranged from $5 to thousands, and every one of them has helped us do this work.
Our Donors Are Making A Profound Difference
Thanks to our donors, our kids — who might never have attended school or known how to read if they hadn’t come to us — are bright and curious, and many are at the top of their classes. Most importantly, we are supporting them through technical schools or universities, so they can achieve their dreams and break the cycle of poverty in their families forever. And it’s working. We’ve already graduated an accountant, we have a chemical engineering student and a graphic design major currently enrolled, and next semester we’re sending a psychology major and a musician. Join us and be part of a program that is working!
We’re Tax Deductible
Ninos Del Sol is supported by a 501c3 charity in the U.S., and your donations are fully tax-deductible. You’ll receive a tax receipt immediately when you make your donation. If you need any further records for tax purposes, or if you have any questions, contact [email protected] for help.
We are a Global Family and we’d love for you to join us!
We’ll keep you up to date on the kids’ progress with our quarterly newsletter and regular Facebook posts. You’ll get to know the kids and root for them as individuals. And you’re always welcome to visit us in the Sacred Valley and see how we’re doing.
No donation is too small for us. Through the generosity of HIPGive, your donation could even be doubled with matching funds!
Your information is secure, and we promise never to share your e-mail address.
We’re often asked what items the Niños need. Here’s our current wish list.
Of course, financial support is what we need most of all. We’re still struggling to create enough income to pay our monthly expenses. Please join our International Family by making one-time or ongoing donations.
It’s often better to buy things locally — prices in Peru are much better than in the US, and the children love to come along on shopping trips for several reasons. They learn important skills by going out shopping, from selecting items to handling money responsibly; but most importantly, there’s pride in selecting items themselves, and in buying things locally rather than thinking everything is a gift that arrives from the US (or other 1st world countries.)
If you’re headed to Peru and can come meet the kids and take them shopping, that would be a fantastic way to truly connect with them. If not, and you want to do a goal-oriented fundraiser, send used laptops or camping equipment, or send some items we can’t buy locally, we, of course, appreciate all donations.
Homeopathic remedies for common flu and stomach upsets, Arnica Cream and Pellets, Calendula Cream, Dr. Bach Rescue Remedy, chewable Vitamin C, Multi Vitamins.
Laptops (good used OK).
3 Sleeping Bags, 2 quality tents.
Head Lanterns for the dark nights and camping.
USB’s/ discs on key- for music, photos, and homework.
New Clothing and shoes for kids, in constant need. Can be bought with the kids locally. About US$100 per child twice a year.
Addition to the food budget to include more fresh fruits, honey, olives, nuts, olive oil, butter, coconut oil, cheese and animal protein. Additional US$80 a month will be great!
Nut butters/ Nuts. Tahini and nuts are hard to come by locally- and make a great gift to bring along (pistachios, almonds, cashews, pecans…)
Tooth paste and dental tape of the better kind, no sugar and chemicals etc. (Tom’s tooth paste)
Dr. Bronner’s liquid and bar soap.
Shampoo/ Conditioner of the natural style. Any natural style cosmetics/ lotions for the girls.
Cool puzzles/ cards/ games- for indoors and outdoors.
Healthy Camping Snacks/ Bars.
We need help with the ongoing monthly expenses of the Casas (one in Urubamba, the other for the older Ninos in Cusco) which is about US$8,000. We have about half of this coming with ongoing monthly donations. Please consider fundraising on our behalf with your own fundraising page in our current campaign!
Seeds of flowers and vegetables for our new gardens. Hand pruners.
Cool movies for 10- 20 year old youth. English with Spanish subtitles is great!
Cool books for teens in Spanish or Spanish/ English; dictionaries Spanish/ English. Materials for learning English.
Your favorite music CD’s.
Art supplies: sketch paper, color pencils, pastels, temperas, play dough, markers, glue, scotch tape.
Thank you so much for your ongoing support and love. We could not do this work without our Global Family!
Nearly all of our financial support is managed through the U.S. Board, which is made up of five volunteers who give as much time as we can. The board is rich with ideas but short on manpower. We need help coordinating our fundraising activities, social media, newsletters, etc.
If you can donate 5-10 hours per week and have experience with any of the following, we need you!
– Blogging/social media (WordPress, Buffer & Mailchimp skills)
– Clerical/communications (Bookkeeping/Mailchimp/Microsoft Word)
– Fundraising/grant writing experience
– Import/auction/online store experience
We need independent self-starters who don’t need a lot of direction, as we have no staff to offer any training or supervision in these roles (I’m available to answer questions and have loads of ideas to pass along).
If you’re interested, e-mail me at [email protected] with your relevant skills & experience and your experience in working independently.
We’re occasionally asked about the path to becoming a board member. It’s our intention in the future to invite new supporters in as volunteers first, and offer board membership to those who are consistently working on behalf of the Niños.
Heading to Peru?
We always need long-term (6 month or more) Spanish-speaking volunteers to work with the kids in Urabamba. We also love visitors, especially if they’re interested in doing a service project with us. Visitors who will share their photos and stories with their friends and family and help us encourage new monthly donors are the most valuable resource we have.
We are in need of volunteer help in several areas, both in Peru to supervise the kids and in the U.S (Spanish translation, grant writing, and WordPress help).
We currently have no volunteers at the Casa to help with the kids, so this is an urgent need. Volunteering at the Casa has been a life changing experience for many people, and we appreciate the volunteering requests we get from visitors who want to help out. But we are very choosy about the primary volunteers who take responsibility for our kids’ care. Our ideal candidate will:
Speak Spanish well enough to communicate with the kids on a daily basis
Be available to stay with us long-term (6 months or more)
Have experience working with kids, particularly teenagers
Pass an Interpol background check
Contribute a token amount to help pay room and board (about $100 a month is what we look for)
If this describes you, and especially if you are available immediately, please contact Avishai at [email protected] to discuss the opportunity.
In the U.S.
Our U.S. board could use some part-time, occasional, and project-based help. If you have experience in the following areas, please contact me at [email protected]:
Translation: Occasionally we need documents translated from Spanish into English and vice-versa. This might include hand-written documents, Excel spreadsheets (just the text portions), video clips, or e-mails. We don’t need this kind of help very often, but when we do need it, we usually need it done quickly. The ideal candidate will be familiar with Peruvian dialect
WordPress: Joshua and I are in the process of moving this site to a WordPress site. We both have experience with WordPress, but neither of us has much time. It would be wonderful to have some help porting the existing pages and blog posts over and replicating some of the reporting and social media functions we currently have in place. The ideal candidate will be very experienced with a wide variety of WordPress functionality, plug-ins, and integrating with Paypal.
Grantwriting: Anyone with any experience in grantwriting out there? We need help (or training) in all facets, from seeking opportunities to crafting successful applications. The ideal candidate has more experience than me, which is ANY AT ALL.