The Q’eros (KEH-ros) people are the last Incan community in Peru. Their 14 villages, home to more than 2,000 people, are located 14,500 feet (4,420m) above sea level in the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcanota range, the highest mountain chain in southeastern Peru.
The Q’eros have long struggled under the burdens of marginalization, food insecurity, high child mortality and poor education. These problems were driving families to leave in search of opportunity for education, for jobs and a better way of life – yet they found that acceptance in the lowland culture and economy came hard.
Thanks to an enterprising American university student, Hannah Rae Porst, the villages of the Q’eros have gained access to schools, an adult learning center, a health center, greenhouses and clean water systems. The NGO she founded, Willka Yachay, raised funds for all this, as well as for solar panels and hydroelectric generators to provide the first electric power and the salaries of the teaching staff.
The way of life of the Q’eros is steeped in tradition, but the Willka Yachay team came to see that preserving it would take more than schools or solar panels. So, the NGO contracted with Speedcast to bring the internet by satellite to the Q’eros nation. Today, the satellite internet connection provides the Q’eros with communications during weather and medical emergencies. It helps coordinate development and construction work and maintains vital connections with government officials, distant family members and remote teachers who enrich the education of their young people.
As the COVID-19 pandemic reached Peru, it also offered them safety. Peru imposed a strict quarantine on indigenous communities to protect them. More than ever, the internet connection became the community’s lifeline. With reliable internet service, the Q’eros may still be sheltered in their high mountains – but they are no longer alone in the world.