Kuoda Travel is a socially responsible travel agency in Cusco, Peru. In addition to customizing travel vacations for families and couples, the agency provides supplementary education to children in a remote, poverty-stricken area and computer classes to communities that lay outside the popular tourist track. Many Kuoda tours include stops in towns off the beaten path for travelers to get a glimpse of traditional way of life and a tour of the learning center.
About an hour’s drive northwest of Peru’s ultra touristy city of Cusco, through the ancient Sacred Valley, around the shores of Lake Puiray and down a long, winding dirt road sits a traditional Andean village where little has changed since Inca times. During dry season a layer of dust settles over everything muting the deep red of the mud bricks of the Adobe homes. The snow-capped Andes mountain range in the distance and the dry, crisp air is a reminder that it is almost 12,000 feet.
The indigenous language of Quechua is the first, and sometimes only, language of most inhabitants of this rural agricultural community. Life here is not easy. Families have little comforts of modern society and their agrarian lifestyle means they are tied to the earth in good times and bad.
The remote location isolates students from educational advancements. With no library, suitable
teaching materials or supplies the level of education is low, even compared to the standards of other rural schools in the area. The local school only educates kindergarten to sixth-grade students for half a day. Traveling the distance to attend secondary school is not stressed as most adults in the community only completed primary school and attendance at university is unheard of. Or at least it was. Before 2007, only one child from this community went on to university to further his studies. Since 2007, however, 42 children have advanced to attend university.
What happened in 2007 that had such a profound change? That was the year Kuoda Travel started the Andean Children’s Learning Center, an after-school program to supplement public education. Kuoda Travel is a Cusco-based travel agency that specializes in customizing tour packages for couples and families. And while that in itself would keep anyone busy, owner Mery Calderon wanted to use the travel company as a way to give back to the local communities that live outside the tourist center.
She started with this Chinchero community. The learning center is a two-classroom after-school program that teaches children art, music, reading, writing and math. Kuoda donates colored markers, paints, music instruments, art supplies, books, computers and the teachers for the after-school classes. The teacher Professor Julio has been with the children from the beginning and is an integral part of the school’s success. Every weekend he dresses up as a clown to entertain children at birthday parties, making him the perfect cheerleader for kids in a community where little is expected of them.
“He is perfect for the job,” Mery said. “He is just as much a self-esteem teacher as anything. He constantly encourages the kids telling them, ‘You can do it! You can go on to university’ and I think that makes the biggest difference. They have someone believing in them, telling them they can do it every step along the way."
Kuoda Travel did not stop with the learning center. Knowing how important computers are in today’s society, Mery developed a traveling computer course that supplies computers and training to communities far away from the quickly developing world.
Starting in 2010, and growing every year since ,the computer training classes spend five months teaching basics computer skills, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Internet basics. Now twice a year Kuoda sets up 116 computers in four communities at a time and teaches about 60 children and adults.
Calderon hopes to introduce graphic design and robotics next year for more advanced students. “We just want to give them the tools to do what they want. You never know where the next Picasso will come from,” she said.
For more information about Kuoda Travel visit their website: http://www.kuodatravel.com or email them directly at email@example.com.