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Fundraiser focuses on another natural disaster

Peru needs help after bombardment of heavy rains, floods and mudslides

With the world's attention focused on life-or-death needs of Haitians following a disastrous earthquake on Jan. 12, last month's Peruvian natural disaster has gone under the radar. But Squamish councillor Patricia Heintzman is determined to rectify this neglect with a fundraiser at the Brackendale Art Gallery Thursday (Feb. 11) meant to help friends whose two-year humanitarian project took a devastating blow during the storms.

"Their project is two-fold: training community health care workers and installing bio sand water filters in high Andean communities," said Heintzman. "Originally I was hoping to raise money for their project - $75 buys and installs one biosand water filter for example - but the flooding has created an even more pressing need."

The flash floods, triggered by days of heavy rains, closed roads and bridges and washed out rail lines as tourists from around the world were trapped in a small town near the Incan ruins.

Media reports have focused on the trapped tourists - as many as 1,500 in the high traffic area of Incan ruins in Machu Picchu, and 3,500 tourists in all, according to Peruvian officials.

However impact on local settlements and charitable projects have not been widely reported.

Heintzman has a personal connection after visiting her friends Sandra MCGirr, Sandy Hart and their two children Niall and Tarn in the Sacred Valley's small town of Lamay, near Pisac, for two months last summer.

"There I met some wonderful people and discovered this amazing Andean culture," she said. "I also met an incredible group of people who are trying to revive the Andean culture. Rene and his wife Eddie were incredible hosts for us in Peru and shared with us their culture."

Those friends are now trying to rebuild in the wake of flash floods.

"The area around Pisac was seriously affected and several of my new friends lost their homes including Rene and Eddie," said Heintzman. "The cultural centre they established has also been flooded as has Niall's school. In fact it's beyond salvage."

At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday Feb. 11, Heintzman will treat 25 to 30 Brackendale Art Gallery guests with a traditional Peruvian dinner for $50, which will include ceviche, quinoa soup, rocoto peppers stuffed with spiced meet, quinoa and veggie stuffed sweet peppers, for those who don't like spicy or meet, Papas a la Huancaina and and possibly Leche Asada, a custard like dessert.

"And I'll be making up a batch of pisco sour for the more adventurous," she said, adding she's donating the food, so all funds go directly to Peru.

At 8 p.m., Heintzman presents a slideshow of Peruvian images she captured while travelling.

To reserve a dinner seat, contact Heintzman at pheintzman@squamish.ca. Entry to the slideshow is by donation.