Wayna Warma

Wayna Warma: A place for children above the roofs of Cusco

Cusco was founded in the 11th century by the Inca Indians, located at an altitude of 3,416 m in the central Andean mountain range of Peru. The city’s name comes from Quechua language and means “navel of the world”, being the former capital of the Inca Empire. Its historic significance as well as its pre-colonial and colonial architecture have made it a flourishing tourist attraction with more than 3 million tourists visiting Cusco every year (compared to 420,000 inhabitants). When strolling through the ancient streets of the lively town center it is hard to believe that there are local people who do not benefit from the city’s primary source of income. Nevertheless, a large part of Cusco’s population lives under very precarious conditions and with hardly any future perspectives. In one of the poor neighborhoods called Huayracpunco, nestled on the hillside of the city,  one finds himself in a parallel world that has nothing to do with the tourist bustle downtown.

As social pedagogue, Maria Elena Camacho considers as one of her main tasks to support and encourage socially disadvantaged children and young people, thus enabling them to make their way out of poverty. Under the lead of the architect Clemens Plank, at the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Innsbruck a students’ architectural competition has been carried out for a concept design of an education center. The design by Daniel Kranebitter and Walter Rudig, consisting of three buildings connected by a courtyard, has finally won the competition and is being realized in the Huayracpunco neighborhood. Based on the stamp clay technique, already the building process itself can be considered a development project. Clay produces less ecological damage, is moisture-regulating and does not lead to recycling problems. Moreover, the building concept used is relatively work-intensive, whereas material expenses are minimal. This ensures a complete regional added-value. The first building complex was finalized and opened last year. So far, a second complex is nearly completed by around 80 percent.

One year after the official opening of the Wayna Warma project we had the chance to meet Maria Elena Camacho in Cusco and get an impression of her daily work with the kids in the new education center. At present, about 25 children and young people aged from three to thirteen years are visiting the project. The new building provides ample space with bright and friendly flair, and is excellently designed to meet the specific requirements of the project: it includes a large common area as well as learning spaces well equipped with tables and benches – something that is not taken for granted in Peru. In many cases, poverty and precarious living conditions dominate the children’s everyday life. An individual and unique social background characterizes every child at Wayna Warma, however, all children come from poor and difficult family situations where abandonment or alcoholism (very often even with the mothers) are the norm. They are lacking the strength of parental support and must assume responsibility at a very early or too early an age. It is not unusual in Peru that preschool or primary school-aged kids already support their parents’ work or do occasional jobs as street merchants or polishing shoes, for example, to contribute to the family incomes.
The new education center not only offers space for education and activities, but also allows for pursuing personal interests, promoting talents as well as for developing visions. The new facilities and the available material allow Maria Elena to train and enhance the kids’ creativity, motoric abilities and general skills. Together, the children spend their time reading books, painting and crafting, attending basic lessons like Maths, dancing or playing football.

Special activities such as a “mini-chef”-cooking class to transmit simple ways for a good nutrition based on (very) little money, or English and swimming courses are made possible with the help of local or international volunteers. A small theater stage allows the organization of special celebrations. For this purpose, Maria Elena and the kids love to prepare traditional and modern dances.

To specifically foster the development of all children and young people individually, for Maria Elena Camacho every day is a new challenge that requires an intense and time-consuming preparation. Since Wayna Warma does not receive any governmental funding, Maria Elena’s work is completely financed through donations. To realize her job and to maintain this place for kids, she is reliant on your donation. Her husband Mario tries to support her to all intents and purposes, thus he plays a very important role for the Wayna Warma project. Maria Elena and Mario know how to teach values and how to encourage togetherness among the children. Besides the kids’ dreams of jobs like doctor, mayor, football player and police officer, some also mentioned the dream of creating such a building as a civil engineer in the future. In this sense, the vision of two architecture students who dreamed of creating an education center in Peru has become reality. Out of it, many little visions and dreams have developed…

Let’s shape the future together: We need your help and every possible donation. More information about the education center Wayna Warma and about charitable donations on waynawarma.com.

Future is more than just a dream.

Every contribution counts:

IBAN: AT23 2060 1034 0011 5311
Verwendungszweck: Bildungshaus Cusco

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