Friday, September 30, 1988

Chicuchas Wasi, the Children's Home of Cusco (notes for an article)




FIRST DRAFT NOTES  Most of my Chicuchas Wasi files won't even open, and the ones that do open are in far worse shape than this one. And this one's in bad shape. Will I ever be able to resurrect this? Alas, the dot matrix hard copy version I finally found is basically what you see here, not a finished article.



Peru’s capital city, Lima, founded in 1537, was once considered the Paris of the New World. But even the new Paris foundered quickly. Patron of Peru, born in 586AD, Santa Rosa de Lima, the new world’s first and only saint, housed, fed and nursed the poor, teaching them to read and write. 

By 1823, when the Gran Liberator Simón Bolívar arrived, he was appalled by the filth and poverty. Cuzco has always been the naval of the world, the capital of the Inca empire. 

In the center of the world, carrying on the tradition of Santa Rosa de Lima, is a modern 20th century healer, nurse Rae Pieraccini. When Pieraccini, a Sonoma County resident and Kaiser nurse at Santa Rosa (named after Rosa de Lima, incidentally), went to Peru with a Sierra Club expedition in 1985, little did she know she’d move to Cuzco and found a home for poverty-stricken children of the street, Chicuchas Wasi, which in Quechua, the Inca language, means Children’s Home.  

NOTES Pieraccini said when she arrived in Cuzco, she had a sensation of being here before and vowed to come back to live. Se didn’t even know Spanish. She was put to work as a nurse soon after when the tourist train to Machu Picchu was bombed in 1986. After the bombing, tourism dropped off because of war and terrorism but the children are insistent. Pieraccini came to Cuzco with a nurse friend whose brother was an archaeologist at Stanford. Pieraccini had the feeling of deja vu, of having been here before. 

Rae Pieraccini has 3 grown sons in Santa Rosa, 21, 23, 26. In 86 it was rough. Her youngest son was in Cusco when the train was bombed. She was the only bilingual nurse. She said that she tried not to work in medicine…but Rae at Kaiser was into alternative healing practice. Psychic healing, stress reduction (Kaiser administrator Michael Peterson was supportive of her efforts.)

Rae: I don’t know anything about US policies. This is a project of the heart..so we can get to know eachother as people. When you finally have all the things you need, then what? You come here where they have nothing. The only luxury we have is  a black and white TV. I have a VCR wish out. I’m writing a lot, mostly out of need. Perhaps for a nursing journal.

Rae works in the countryside with a Peruvian nurse, Enriquetta, and house manager, Phil Voysey, an Aussie.. Phil & I are on max burn-out level 24, hours a day. (

see PD article july 19, and TV interview on Chamnnel 6?  

Rae returns home to Sonoma County every 6 months to keep the flow (cash) going)

How people can help. Send money, says Rae. Chicuchas Wasi needs to become self-sufficient. to buy land in the country and to raise vegetables, there's always a shortage of greens in the Andes. She wants to take the kids back to the country.  But there's no electricity, she talks about the dangers of using a kerosine stove. No hot water, etc.

This is an outreach perogram, She has to contend with officials. credibility Ifactor.. story of sold kids... She has the way paved with the ministry of Health. She has an administarative role, something she doesn’t like to do…but it needs to be done. Chicuchas Wasi is in her name. She married a Peruvian.. Americans can’t own land (doesn’t want this mentioned…  )

Chicuchas Wasi's legal foundation is in Santa Rosa, because the money is in California. She says Chicuchas Wasi isn’t my house. it’s the kid’s house. She sees herself in the role of country nurse who's duties include birth to autopsy to dentistry (not in that order). She’s tryiing to incorporate both local healing, herbal and modern medicine practices.

We hiked three hours and 1,0000 meters up to vaccine kids and teach birth control. Cuzco at 11,100 ft. is base camp.

KINTERPLAST—group of surgeons plastic, at Stanford. She’s liasion. She says there are lots of burns, cleft palates, and told a story about a baby in the campo with a cleft palate. The parents wanted to leave it out, exposed to the elements, to die. Many superstitions.

But things are improving, there are several groups working together to serve the community better.

Sociology syndrome. There are kids living  in the street everywhere. The poverty is appaling. It’s time to take another look at how the children of the world are suffering. We’re chasing the wrong rainbow.. The time is now.  

CHILDHOPE in Guatemala City gave Rae a foundation grant.

She tells a story about one of her first charges, Ronald, now 15, twho ook everything we had. He’s now on his own working in a bakery painting faces on tarts. He earns 1,500 intis a month ($7.50 us) 500 intis go for a room. ($7 buys a good meal for 2 in Cuzco—barely). He lives on this a whole month?

He was their first street kid. She said, old habits die hard. Stealing and lying are a big problem. He still lives on the outside. His brother Lucho, we’re having better luck with him.

We’re trying to get little girls off the streets and into the home. The problem is 99% have parents so we legally can’t do much for them. For the first few months I was out there every night pounding the pavement. They won’t talk to Phil bevcause he’s a man. There’s a lot of abuse…mothers won’t let them come here because they won’t be earning money.

Foreigners have come here in the past to “adopt” kids and have turned around and sold them.

The story of Eva, the 8 year old selling her body to tourists on the streets of Cuzco. pix

People here are blind. It takes a foreigner here to see what the needs are, and what can be done for these kids. The question is, there’s so much to do, where do you start?  

Her mail’s being lifted? She said that she can’t trust officials.  >she describes herself as a woman in transition. Trial by fire.  

See article in the Christian Science Moniter on street kids. june 30, 87.

Phil Voysey’s been in Peru since January. He received a phone call at 4 am from Rae asking for help. Phil worked in Zimbabwe for two years teaching English & African history. He's had a lot of experience with the 3rd world. He first came to Peru in 1985. He said that he wanted to work in Latin America. And he  intended to go to Chile, but never mde it.

Though Rae doesn’t want to talk about the political structure, she said that Peru is one hell of a political hot spot for a middle class single gringa with 3 kids.  

She takes a more holistic approach—medicine. quote on wall— in spanish— your children are not your children. They are *sons and daughters of life—-Kalil Gibran  

Her own children having fled the nest, she’s now raising Quechua chiildren.  

I can’t figure out the politics. Like Pol Potismos, Viet Kong terrorists—nobody seems to be for the Sendero Luminoso. Carlos, our Limeño friend, a member of the miiddle class, feels a Sendero takeover is inevitible. He hopes they’ll have learned something and mellowed in the process. 

Chichua means pregnant. Chicuchas means children. Wasi means house.

Ronald who’s 15 looks about 10, from malnutrition, she said that he grew 4” in 4 months after she took him in.. .

Rae now has his brother Luis who came to Chicuchas Wasi —because I was walking the street looking for Ronald & they told me he was living with a gringa. Need translation of story...

Gillermo’s story, In the hospital, my mother died, my papa died .

Santusa’s story. She says they suffered a lot in the country taking care of the sheep in the rain? and she likes it better in the city. She likes it in Chicuchas Wasi because she wouldn’t have anywhere else to go if she left. She’d like to be an empleada (a domestic) when she grows up and work in somebody’s house. She’d like to work & put Rosita her little sister through high school.

John, who was translating their stories said, One thing that strikes me is that these kids have limited aspirations. Carpenter, maid. All my chicano kids in Oakland want to be doctors, lawyers, models. Or is it that a carpenter or maid is as high or unreachable or semi-realistic a goal as these :professional glamor positions are for most of my students?

Chicuchas Wasi was founded for puroses offering practical assistance, a future with hope to the abandoned street children of Cuzco. We were striving to create a home environment, where together we can become strong in body, mind, and spirit. Daily existence here is a struggle—even for the educated.

An economic crisis exists in Peru—so the children are forgotten. The government has no financial ability to help them. They simply exist by whatever means they can find, they are alone, afraid, hungry, sick, and without hope for more; or they die.

We are trying through love, affection, imnproved diet, health and education *to give them hope and a productive future.

Goals: to establish several permanent homes.
Self care education. Kids in local schools, apprenticeship with artisans. I’m looking for a mechanic apprentice to work 1 to 1 with the kids. We need community volunteers as well as US health care providers.

I’m here alone with the kids for days at a time. Kids have humble goals, but not too humble. A carpenter, a maid, I teach them basic living skills, washing and cooking. It’s a lonely profession. You have no one to share the hard times with—especially street kids—Ronald, I had to send him back to the streets because he exausted me.

Rae would like to see the home staffed with members from the local community. Creating a sense of extended family where children can reestablish their capacity to trust, and reenter their culture with a future that will include  a job, self-respect and dignity.

Rae lives in a modest 3 storey complex of adobe with a tiny courtyard the size of a hallway where the laundry chores are shared by all the children. The bright red plastic tubs are nearly as big as the kids. The kerosine stove is also outside.

Kerosine stoves account for nearly all the burns that Interplast tries reconstructive surgery on. Rae says we theoretically could expand Chicuchas Wasi.

Chicuchas Wasi currently has 6 kids; 4 brothers & sisters). We can put 4 more boys (8 total) at 2 to a bed, and 4 more girls. We have the space but not the resources. This includes care providers and money.

There’s also the problem of neighbors complaining about the noise the kids make while playing.

What Rae really wants to do is to relocate in the country and build a large hacienda where kids can raise their own vegetables to sell.—to become self supporting. She needs large cash outlay of several thousand dollars. $12,000 to buy a truck, $7,000 for land and another $3,000 for building supplies for starters.

We're outgrowing our house. Rae would like to see graduates from the home return to participate in its continued existance. As a registered nurse, and help in the community…. outreach

The kids always say, “are you going to hit me? There’s so much alcoholism here. They are always speaking Quechua when they don’t want me to understand. They tell us, you and Phil speak English when you don’t want us to understand. I need to learn Quechua. No one speaks Spanish in the campo.

I was in the park, when I first arrived here—- I lifted my hand from my backpack for a moment and it was stolen right out from under my hand. I didn’t have a place to live, I didn’t have a job and everything I owned was stolen. I had enough change to get a cup of coffee and a friend saved me. He took me up to th English Language school and got me a job.

Rae is care provider for six kids; 4 boys and 2 girls. All are without family. One child has Spina Biida or Spinal TB, they’ve had parasites, worms, typhoid—many street kids come to lunch to eat their main midday meal—usually their only meal.

Rae needs more space & help. She says we have a policy not to take in kids on a permanent basis under the age of five years. The economy here is crazy. The price of food has more than doubled in six weeks. The majority of the street kids are boys.

All I want to do right now is administartive stuff— I’d like to start a cottage industry. Make cookies to sell to the gringos. All the kids are way behind ifor their age— physically, emotionally & educationally. I must be crazy to do this (to raise kids) for a second time. I look at all those kids soaking it up In Cuzco, there are similar projects.

The orphanage run by nuns and Jhurch-related orphanages tend to take in babies but they don’t deal with Iindependent street kids. There’s a woman from France who also takes in street kids but she doesn’t offer them the kind of support Rae offers her charglings. Giving them a place to sleep and food isn’t enough—like Oliver Twist in the poorhouse in England—-

Rae said, I went home to get rested and I worked like hell to raise money. We had two interviews. The crowd she wants to reach are the west county folks. She says the 8 to 5’ers don’t respond. It’s the alternative lifestyle people who will help this project. Who knows what’s going to happen here politically? The Peruvians don’t understand our motives. Gringos robbed them of their children years ago and sold them into slavery and prostitution.

Her nurse companion Enriquetta Ccapatinta has been instrumental in helping Rae get through the legal work. ON her bookshelf, City of Joy, 501 Spanish verbs. Pediatrics, Carlos Casteneda, candles, crystals, shells and herbs. A poster on the wall. Love is the power that heals. A calendar of street people of the world. Stuffed bears and rabbits. Large butcherpaper notes of Quechua suffixes and tenses plaster the walls. Mi casa wasi y, tu casa wasiki, casa wasi.

There are no stipends she can offer house manager Phil Voysey. Phil’s had to pay for everything out of his own pocket. When Rae came to CA to raise money, someone donated $100 so he could take a vacation. When we get the oven working, we’ll sell cookies and wear our twe shirts that say Chicuchas Wasi and sell them to the gringos on the plaza.

Her dream is to open a *tienda, a store and export Peruvian goods. Rae was raised in Sausalito, the daughter of a fisherman, I was his crew & deck hand. We were berthed down where Spinnaker's is now. Her father went into boat tours and they moved the business over to SF’s Pier 43.

I was the oldest of two daughters. I did all the PR and contacted the hotels. For ten years. II passed out literature, sold tickets, etc… this survival skill was to later help her with Chicuchas Wasi.

She was married at 18 to someone who lived around the corner, had three sons by the time she was 24. She moved to Hawaii, sold real estate in Oahu and Kauaii.

She returned to San Rafael, had the ticky tacky house, station wagon and dog—the whole middle class scene. And I woke up one day when I caught my children out in the back yard taking the temperature of the pool with a thermometer to see who had the warmest pool in the neighborhood. I said, something’s wrong here.

We took a ride up to Sonoma (74) and bought six acres south of the town on Watmaugh And built a home for ourselves. We went back to the land. We were very domestic. We had a farm, joined 4H, raised pigs. I had a truck, with pigs in back, kids in front—pigs have a tendency to escape. I wound up chasing pigs with a tennis racquet.

We had goats, made cheese, home canned, etc. The kids were involved. Like with coming here, I lived by that inner force that's always led me. IMy dream as a kid was to be a nun and to work on the hospital ship, Hope.

Rae did become a nurse. Took courses at Napa Community college for 5 years.. She worked at Queen of the Valley hospital, Yontville Veteran’s Home, Sonoma Valley Hospital, before coming to Kaiser Permanente for six years.

She officially quit last year. She did ICU intensive care nursing at San Rafael for two years—before she burned out. Working at Santa Rosa Kaiser, in general medicine, five days a week from 8 to 5, was great. She taught stress reduction classes, and worked in OB/GYN.

She said, I wish I had more pediatrics training. What I like most is country nursing. I was involved in psychic healing long before I became a nurse. When I worked as a student nurse, I’d use psychbic healing and the moniters would go down. ‘I use touch, channeling energy fields.       

See PD ARTICLE Fall 85 Rae visited Cuzco, the magnetic center of the earth. where she found the place & its indigenous Quechua people so compelliing that she knew :she had to go back whether or not she could make a living.  

10 year resident of Sonoma co. critical care nurse at Kaiser Pernanente. her 3 sons live in sonoma, their father is in Stockton. (Sausalito story…3 mos. later, she took leave of absence from her job to spend a year in Cuzco and be a volunteer nurse, to learn Spanish, to make connections with the Quechua culture.

During her year in Cuzco she became acquainted with the street kids. seven year olds with families so impoverished, they live solely on potatoes. She blames the problem on declining economy and high birth rate. This forces the kids on the street to work, beg, steal at an early age. Soon, they’ve moved onto the streets.

After months of fundraising, Rae bought the apt 3 blocks from the town’s main plaza and invited the street children in. Her project has attracted the attention of foreign Peruvians in Cuzco.  

Contingents of interested Sonoma County  people are fundraising on the home front. Rae says Peruvian participation is crucial if this projets is going to survive. Rae wants project to be acceptable to the Quechuas and then she’ll turn it over to them when it’s established.  

In June, Rae drummed up donations of time, clothing, and medical supplies. Cuzco is an Inca museum filled with peasants. Those coming from primitive mountain villages find the adobe houses, electricity, and cobbled streets, very urban. Lack of high rises, poorly equipped hospitals and a severe absence of services for the poor…   

get back to PD article 

Chicuchas Wasi Rae Pieraccini, President, 
Casilla 636, Correo Central, Cuzco, Peru, 
SA tel 22772 Domicillo: Alabado 525 
FAX 51-84-236140 
Sra. Rae Pieraccini tele. 22-77-20 c/o La Positiva, Cuzco Peru 

Capp Street Foundation flow thru— went belly up. Chicuchas Wasi needs another flow thru. List of foundations sent to Steve Burdick to FAX to Rae.  or PO box 2031 Sonoma CA 95476 CA Prez. Steve Burdick, 1860 Sobre Vista Ct., Sonoma w. 765-9125, h. 938-0267 Kaiser ortho Dr.Jon Lopez H. 579-9065 W. 571-4123 9 Carol Stewart 539-4563, 538-2468 leaving for Peru in Oct? Leann Geiger 578-2606, 19, wants to work with Rae. Read about Chicuchas Wasi in PD. See also, Betty Woods—back from Nicaragua. Still at Kaiser? She may come down to help Rae later….



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