High in the sky, amid Peru’s tallest mountains, live a people from another time.  They are called the Q’eros, and they are the last traditional community of the Incan nation.

Life at high altitude is hard.  The Q’eros raise animals and farm the rugged land as their ancestors did, and their lives have long been marked by food insecurity, high child mortality and poor education.  The Peruvian government called them the “wisdom keepers of the Andes,” but they lived on the margins of society – even those who fled the mountains seeking a better life.

In 2010, a student named Hannah Rae Porst came to live with the Q’eros for a university project.  When her research came to an end, she asked villagers how she could thank them for their hospitality.  What they needed most, they told her, was a school.

Sacred Wisdom for Modern Times

That conversation stayed with Hannah Rae and, back in America, she began raising money.  Within a year, she was able launch construction of the school – and also moved to Peru.  To keep the improvements coming, she founded a charity called Willka Yachay, which means “sacred wisdom” in Quechua, the language of the Q’eros.

Over the next years, Willka Yachay helped the community build more schools, centers for adult learning and health, fishponds and greenhouses.  Each brought new opportunity to the Q’eros. But, while making life better for them, the charity also wanted to preserve the culture that gave meaning to their lives.

That would take more than building projects.  Willka Yachay went in search of a way to bring the internet to the Q’eros.  It found Kidnected World.  That’s an NGO that brings interactive education to indigenous children in the Americas and Africa, with the help of a company called Speedcast.

Speedcast is a global communications and IT service provider.  It serves thousands of energy platforms and mines, cargo and cruise ships, governments and businesses around the world.  Willka Yachay’s needs were small, but the company was intrigued.  Speedcast advised the charity on buying the right technology and sent staff to install it.  The company also donated a year’s worth of satellite internet service.

Community Lifeline

And the internet helped build a better future.  It brought medical advice for the sick and connection with distant family members.  It connected teachers from far away, who taught the math, physics and engineering needed for building projects that keep improving the Q’eros’ quality of life.

At the same time, it encouraged the traditions of the Q’eros.  Craftspeople began to sell traditional woven goods online to a global market.  Kidnected World donated its online platform of tools, meetups and content, and Q’eros kids found new ways to celebrate and share their culture with others around the world.

When COVID19 reached Peru, the government imposed a strict quarantine on indigenous groups.  The internet connection became the community’s lifeline.  With reliable internet service, the Q’eros have been able to stay safely sheltered in their high mountains – but still connected to the world.

Produced for SpaceNews by Space & Satellite Professionals International

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Robert Bell has over 30 years of experience as an association manager and business consultant for both nonprofit and profit-driven and organizations operating in the IT outsourcing, telecommunications, and financial services industries.