Life, Emotions and Longevity in the Andes

By Yannick Wende, Program Director

Last week I had the strongest epiphany at work thus far in my working experience with the Alma Foundation. There I was on one of my usual visits to our project in Marccuray, it was late afternoon and time for me to head back down the one hour hike to Socma.

I had a good long visit with the community and had no other expectations but quite a long walk down by myself. About half way down I encountered a figure unlike most figures you usually look at from a far distance in the Andes.  It was the shape of a man carrying a long piece of wood  – he was just crawling up the long and steep uphill I had encountered earlier that day up to Marccuray. It wasn’t until I was close up to this man that realized the magnitude of situation I was witnessing. It was a very old man carrying a 12 foot long piece of wood up the hill in his back with his bear hands. His name was “Julian”. At first sight I couldn’t tell how old he was.  I introduced myself to him and had a little break/ chat with him. I figured he was perhaps 70 years old, but upon asking him I realized he was 82!

An 82 year old  carrying a piece of wood that easily weighted 30 kilos! Before I knew it I was walking with him carrying his wood up the hill with him cheering for me. There was a lot of words and emotions at this point, but all I could make out was “gracias, gracias!!” (Thank you thank you). I was so emotional driven that the weight did not matter, all that mattered was helping this old man! Before I knew it I had already passed the steepest part of the uphill and was still so strength driven I did not care about anything. I finally made it to Marccuray once again and dropped his long piece of wood in the ground. The man instantly hugged me and could not stop thanking me. Tears came out of my eyes, and all I could say to him was “thank you for giving the chance to help you”.

I will never forget this day, and for that I thank Mr. Julian.