Photos filled with vibrant reds, neon pinks, yellows and green, flash on the screen of Patricia Heintzman’s laptop.
“I just loved the colours there,” she said, as Rene Theoret, Squamish Youth Resource Centre program coordinator, and Howe Sound Secondary student Sarah Beech looked over her shoulder.
Two and a half years ago, Heintzman was trekking through the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru. She was there visiting Sandy Hart and his wife Sandra McGirr, former Squamish residents who moved to the small Andean village of Lamay to set up a non-governmental program focusing on water, health and education.
“I spent a week with Sandra, walking around the mountains and doing health care,” Heintzman said.
They visited a boy with mumps and various children whose mothers had rushed them from their houses to McGirr. It was amazing to see the relationships the Canadian couple had built, Heintzman recalled.
The not-for-profit DESEA (Spanish for sustainable development in action) Peru runs a household water treatment program, in which the couple and their employees teach locals how to make and maintain bio-sand water filters. The one-metre-tall, free-standing concrete containers can filter up to 40 litres of water an hour and remove up to 99 per cent of bacteria, 90 per cent of viruses and 99.99 per cent of parasites.
Peru has one of the highest neonatal mortality rates in the world, Heintzman said. In the highlands, it averages from 50 to 60 deaths per 1,000 live births — double that of the lowlands. In the past three years, there has been one neonatal death in the areas served by DESEA, Heintzman noted.
The organization has also started a health care program in which it trains local women in hygiene practices, first-aid and interpretation of basic vital signs. The qhali — a Quechua term meaning “working for health” — take that information out to rural communities. They also set up health clinics.
Theoret listened with interest. On Wednesday (June 13), she will board a flight to Lima. From there, Theoret will join up with DESEA and get to work. She will take medical supplies she hopes to collect at this Saturday’s (June 9) farmer’s market.
In the future, Theoret plans to align DESEA with the youth in Squamish. It’s an exciting prospect, said Beech, who next year aims to visit Peru herself.
“I would like to do this as a yearly thing,” Theoret said. “It would be fun to partner up with the agency.”
Heintzman will be fundraising for the organization until July 20, with a Peruvian theme meal at the Brackendale Art Gallery that night. Bring cash donations. The evening will include a three-course meal and a slide show by McGirr about DESEA. Tickets will cost $50. For more information visit www.deseaperu.org or email email@example.com or visit Dessea Peru Peruvian Dinner Fundraiser on Facebook.