On June 21, 2013, we, the Pacha Mamas and Papas, got back from a two-week trip to Peru, where we distributed 1,200 bars of soap and provided hand-washing education to remote schools in the Andes Mountains. This kind of trip is always soul-stirring and it takes time to digest the experience. And so, through the process of making 9,000 bars of soap at the Pacha world headquarters, I’m finally able to talk about our experience.
As a frame of reference, let me explain our mission going into this trip: We set out to give soap; to educate children about the importance of washing their hands; to build and leave hand-washing devices; to love and learn from the people; to research the viability of a Pacha Soap factory in Peru; and to document the entire trip with videos and photos so as to better communicate to our friends, family, and patrons of Pacha Soap the need for better sanitation and hygiene practices in rural areas. After finding a guide, a cook, mule men, and six mules strong enough to carry 400 pounds of soap, we embarked on a five-day trek deep into the Andes. We stopped at every school and community along our journey. We “got our feet wet” the very first day with the things we saw: children’s faces, hands, and feet purple from the cold. Children’s hands so ridden with dirt that infections had left cysts. It was difficult to see such poverty and to see the lack of access to even the most basic of items, such as soap.
Let me say that I do not believe we should be motivated to make other cultures more like our own or, for that matter, make other people like ourselves; each fascinating culture on earth is beautiful and unique. Nor do I think that our current fast-paced way of life in the U.S. is conducive to health of our spirits. I do, however, have a desire to help those who, for whatever reason, are not as privileged as I am to have clean running water, a toilet, and good hygienic practices. These common things we take for granted are rare in many parts of the globe.
So, I do not say that we must make others like ourselves but I will say this: Good health is not a luxury but a human right. This journey in the Andes was reaffirming to our mission to Raise the Bar and it pointed to the need that exists in populations far from our homeland.
So what’s next?
It might take some time and it will certainly take careful planning, but we at Pacha Soap plan to establish a network of sustainable soap factories in underdeveloped and developing nations around the globe. We intend for this project to be ethical in all ways a business can be ethical. These factories will employee local artisans in the crafting of organic, handcrafted soap; provide added economic value to the surrounding communities; and be a hub for good hygienic practices to help people to live healthier lives.
Access to clean water and proper sewage systems can be major infrastructural issues that could take millions of dollars to address. But, at the root of all infrastructure of a village, city, or nation is economic growth. Our eventual network of artisan soap enterprises will be a part of that growth and provide basic items like soap for proper hygiene.
It was difficult for me to leave Peru and to say goodbye to many good friends, old and new. The children we connected with will remain in our hearts until our next visit, when we return to play another game of soccer.
The love we shared with these people was like a burst of energy. We hope to have wisdom to continually follow the One who has given us the opportunity to love and be loved.