ST. GEORGE — Co-founders of the St. George-based international humanitarian organization, Heart Walk Foundation, have been awarded the 2015 Red Cross Heroes Award for International Services.
Following a remarkable year, Tim and Penelope Eicher of Dammeron Valley, said the award reflects the effort and service of hundreds of volunteers, donors and supporters.
Many individuals, families, businesses, community and civic leaders have contributed to the campaign titled, “Grow a Mountain Garden.”
On Feb. 26, Heart Walk Foundation will hold its Annual Gala Dinner & Auction at Benja’s Thai Garden at Red Cliffs, St. George.
Organizers are confident that the final stretch for funding will be achieved prior to returning to Peru in May. Of Heart Walk Foundation’s goal to provide supplies for 100 family greenhouses to the indigenous Q’ero communities living high in the Andes Mountains, 91 are now complete. Most recent was a donation to cover the cost of a greenhouse by Paul Mitchell Schools Inc.
“We realized the level of added nutrition this would bring to the people that have subsisted on only small potatoes,” Penelope Eicher said about introducing greenhouses to the Q’ero. “Now the children describe their favorite foods as leafy vegetables like carrots, kale, cabbage, chard, and spinach.”
In 2003, the Eichers learned of the Q’ero people living high in the Andes Mountains of Peru and have since been offering assistance in areas of agriculture, education, and health education. Each year, they return to the Q’ero communities with volunteers and supplies to assist the people.
“Before we arrived, most children had never held a pencil or book,” Penelope Eicher said. “Heart Walk has since funded 10 classrooms with dedicated teachers and more than 250 Q’ero youth writing stories and calculating mathematical equations with pencils each day.”
With the anticipated completion of 100 greenhouses this spring, and with news that gardens are flourishing and trout farms are full, Heart Walk Foundation has identified four new projects for the coming year. First, begin construction of 100 barns for protecting llamas and alpacas from deep winter snow and cold weather conditions. Every year, the Q’ero suffer the loss of many animals due to harsh winter weather. Second, continue funding teachers for schools and providing school lunches and educational materials. Third, record stories of the elders and cultural traditions. Fourth, create educational materials based on those cultural traditions.
In May, Foundation board members will return to the villages for the 12th year to evaluate progress of greenhouses, deliver seeds and initiate a seed saving program, assess conditions of the trout, and begin recording the elders’ oral histories.
“It is very important for us to assist these beautiful people in understanding the value of their unique culture,” Tim Eicher saidab. “We want to help them preserve their deep traditions so the Q’ero children can draw on the strengths of their ancestors as they adapt to the complexities of the modern world.”
Tim Eicher reported that the baby trout stocked in alpine lakes by Heart Walk Foundation are growing well with final donations of trout to the region last year.
“The community leaders have learned to sustain the population of the trout to feed their families,” Tim Eicher said. “We are very pleased.”
Heart Walk Foundation is supported by a national board of directors and more than 1,000 supporters internationally.
- Heart Walk Foundation website
- To become involved, or to attend the annual event on Feb. 26 at Benja’s Thai Garden, Red Cliffs, call 435-619-0797, or go online
- Heart Walk Foundation returns to Peru; growing sustainability
- Heart of the filmmaker, ‘Heart of the Andes,’ shared at Heart Walk gala; STGNews Videocast
- Heart Walk Foundation Gala premieres ‘Heart of the Andes’