Mosqoy: Two Dreams on Two Continents


- Kayla Pepper

“Mosqoy means dream in English. Dream,” says Elvira Huaman Guerra, speaking with the aid of a translator. The 22-year-old from Tanccac, Peru, is one of the two student ambassadors from the Sacred Valley now studying English at UVic’s English Language Centre, supported by the Mosqoy Foundation, which has very strong connections with UVic.

Mosqoy’s Sacred Valley Youth Fund program was founded by former UVic grad Ashli Akins in 2006. It now provides education opportunities for motivated post-secondary students with limited economic resources. Once students—like Elvira and fellow student Ehbert Florentino Alvarez Huaman—graduate from the program, they are encouraged to give back time and financial support to their rural communities. This reciprocity aims to combat the deep-seated cycle of poverty in the Sacred Valley and the Patakancha Valley.

Elvira and Ehbert were among the first students to graduate from the Instituto Americana del Cusco with the help of the Mosqoy program. They have since become role models for students in Peru and in Canada. Upon completing their post-secondary education in Peru, both students enrolled in the ESL program at UVic.

The Ambassadorship Program that Elvira and Ehbert are participating in was made possible by the fundraising initiatives of Mosqoy volunteers and generous UVic employees. Continuing Studies’ English Language Centre waived their UVic fees and covered their homestay costs in Victoria, and the UVic Bookstore and local businesses donated services and coupons. Gerry Luton, an ELC teacher, coordinated the Ambassadorship Program and acts as a liaison between Mosqoy, Elvira and Ehbert and the ELC.

Elvira’s post-secondary studies focused on hotel management, stemming from her passion “to communicate with people from different cultures.” A three-month scholarship at UVic has helped her learn English so that she’ll feel confident communicating with English speakers when she moves back and starts working in hotels.

“I want to practice what I learn here and improve my English,” she says. Elvira credits the unwavering positive support from her family as the “most important thing.” Mosqoy has helped her become more independent, learn how to work in a group and support other students.

Ehbert, 24, graduated from a tourism program and is now an official tour guide. His family is involved in agriculture back home in Ollantaytambo and he chose tourism because he wants to “bring people to Peru and bring them to the little towns that people forget.” Peru has much to give to people, he says.

Giving back to Mosqoy is important to Ehbert who says he “has had a lot of help.” Part of his volunteer work in Peru involves planning festivities for students, which includes bringing traditional dances from local regions into the school, especially on someone’s birthday. On Fridays he travels three to four hours home and, on Sunday, ensures that all students are prepared for the following week of classes.

In Victoria, Ehbert and Elvira volunteer for Mosqoy by participating in presentations at UVic, Brentwood College and local high schools to tell students about the Sacred Valley Youth Fund and challenges faced by Indigenous youth in their communities.
“I wanted to learn many things to share with the people from my country,” says Ehbert, who expresses how happy he is to have had the opportunity to come to Canada to continue his education. He has two younger sisters currently enrolled in the Mosqoy program back home.

Mosqoy’s sister program, Q’ente Textile Revitalization Society, is where Elvira volunteers. Q’ente’s fair-trade outlet for textile sales helps “women whose husbands have abused them and they have children to support because their husbands have gone,” says Elvira.

“There’s a lot of problems in different Indigenous communities because they don’t have government help,” she explains. Elvira says the language barrier between the Indigenous language (Quechua) and Spanish leads to exploitation of textile workers. “[Q’ente] is incredible because it helps the people get a good price by bringing textiles here to sell. Profits go to different things like Mosqoy.”

Jasmine Nielson, Q’ente Textile Revitalization Society Board Member and UVic Co-op Student of the Year, describes Elvira and Ehbert as “both very knowledgeable and proud of their Inca ancestry and the history of the Sacred Valley.”

She says that they “work part time for Mosqoy in Peru as leaders of the Peruvian side of the program, as well as part time at other jobs in Cusco.”

“I want to say thank you for everything to the university,” says Ehbert. “I really appreciate the opportunity. It’s a really good memory to bring with me always.”

Elvira adds, “Thank you to all the special people who have helped me.” In Canada she’s met people from cultures far from Peru and that has been a “big opportunity, like a dream come true.”

For more information about Mosqoy:

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Keywords: languages and linguistics

People: Elvira Huaman Guerra

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