ST. GEORGE –The idea was born of necessity, really, and the need for a simple solution. How could it be possible for children of the Q’ero Villages to communicate feelings of gratitude to the many individuals and families in North America who have given so much to improve their lives?
For the indigenous children of the high Andes Mountains, such a seemingly simple task would require permeating barriers of time, technology, location, education, and language. Saying, “Thank you for giving my family a greenhouse,” or “Thank you for building the school where I go to learn,” or “Thank you for teaching my family to farm trout” would be no simple task given such extreme circumstances.
For Penelope Eicher, Heart Walk Foundation co-founder, the answer came as organically as the art and culture of the Q’ero people. “The art of these people is so colorful and beautiful,” she said. “And through art, I realized they could offer a very real way of expressing personal sentiment.”
That’s when Eicher contacted Tawnya Kirkland, an artist living in St. George, Utah. The two went to work developing a project that would allow the Peruvian children to communicate through handprints as colorful as their personalities and culture.
This spring, when Heart Walk Board members traveled to the remote Q’ero Villages of Peru, Eicher facilitated a hand painting activity for children to express their gratitude. “We explained the project to the children, and not one handprint was made without a deep smile and heartfelt expression of gratitude,” she said. In June, Eicher returned to the U.S. with 50 handprints.
Two weeks later, youth of St. George, Utah, gathered at Towne Square to return the sweet sentiment by making handprints and donating dollars for Q’ero school supplies. Nearly 100 children turned out to participate and offer their support.
“It has been so special to see children from two very different worlds reach out to each other through a simple expression of art,” said Kirkland. “I am touched at the genuine eagerness of children in our local community to make a difference and to help out in such a kind and loving way.”
In September, HWF volunteers will deliver the handprints to Peru along with school supplies purchased from money raised at the June event.
“We are so excited,” Eicher said. “I just know how the Peruvian school children are going to be thrilled to receive and display this art in honor of their North American friends.”
Southern Utah residents Tim and Penelope Eicher (Dammeron Valley) established Heart Walk Foundation in 2004 with the mission to create vital sustainability programs for these forgotten and destitute descendants of the mighty Inca civilization.
The St. George-based nonprofit organization that serves people of the remote Q’ero villages in the highest Andes Mountains of Peru is supported by a national board of directors and an active international volunteer and donor base of more than 700 individuals.
The Q’ero people suffer from chronic malnutrition, a 47 percent infant mortality rate, and lack of education. Heart Walk has funded and helped build schoolhouses, greenhouses, and trout farms to help Q’ero families improve their health and quality of life. The mission of HWF is to support the preservation of their native culture and traditional community living through improved agriculture, education, and health initiatives.
This September, St. George writer and photographer Melynda Thorpe Burt will travel with Heart Walk Foundation to the Q’ero villages for production of a documentary film about the Q’ero people and Heart Walk Foundation’s contributions to preserving their culture and community.
To support Heart Walk Foundation or to learn more, go to www.heartwalkfoundation.org.
Written and submitted by: Melynda Thorpe Burt, Media Representative for Heart Walk Foundation