InSight Peru is an initiative of the Australian Alpaca Association, in partnership with Quechua Benefit, and with the generous support of the South Nowra Rotary Club, Nowra Private Hospital, and the Shoalhaven Medical Association.

The little town of Chivay sits cradled between mountain peaks with romantic names like Cotallaulli, Ampato and Hualca Hualca, at the gateway to the legendary Colca Valley in Peru. Barely half an hour away by bus, intricately terraced hillsides – a legacy of the industry of the Incas – give way to the staggering sheer cliffs and towering rock walls of the spectacular Colca Canyon. Local tour guides proudly tout the canyon’s credentials as the deepest in the world; although some might contest that claim, none would argue that this is truly one of the most scenically spectacular places on earth. Home to the magnificent Andean Condor, the Colca Canyon attracts a steady stream of tourists willing to brave the rarefied atmosphere to experience the unparalleled natural beauty of the Colca every year; none could make this pilgrimage without being inspired.

It is a tragic paradox that the inhabitants of Chivay and the tiny villages that lie nearby, scattered up and down the valley, are the traditional owners of a place blessed with an unfathomable wealth of natural beauty, and yet in material terms they are among the poorest people in the world. Nowhere is the level of poverty that these proud people endure more apparent than in their inability to access anything more than the most rudimentary health care – and often, no health care at all. After working in the Chivay Health Clinic for a week or so it is hard not to become cynical about the highly politicised and widely publicised claims at home that the health care system in Australia is “in crisis”. “Crisis” is clearly an adjective open to very wide, and careless, interpretation.

Although it is impossible to solve all of the problems that beset Peru, InSight was a venture which demonstrated loudly and clearly that with focus, determination, cooperation and open hearts, a small group of people can make a life changing difference to a significant number of people. Mike Safley is no stranger to this philosophy - since 1996, his single minded resolve has seen Quechua Benefit establish itself as a well recognised charitable organisation in the Colca Valley. His interest in supporting the Peruvian people grew from his involvement in the Alpaca industry in the United States, and an awareness that the commercial viability of this industry worldwide was due in no small measure to the generosity of the traditional custodians of these beguilling animals.

When a team of Optometrists travelled to Chivay with the support of Quechua Benefit in March 2009, they identified a large number of people disabled by cataracts, but did not have the resources to help them. Mike extended the challenge, circulating his call for help far and wide. In November, one of his newsletters came to the attention of Dr Ian Davison, an Orthopaedic Surgeon and also President of the Australian Alpaca Association, in the small NSW south coast town of Nowra. He was captivated - and with that spark, the beacon had been lit. Ian set about enlisting the support of the AAA, garnered financial assistance from the Ramsay Health Group, and put together a small team of colleagues with the necessary skills to travel to Peru and help. InSight was born, and on Saturday morning 15th May 2010 (barely six months later) three doctors, an optometrist, and four nurses boarded a QANTAS flight in Sydney bound for South America, complete with nineteen tightly packed and meticulously catalogued bags of medical supplies and equipment. A dream was about to be reallised!

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