• Hope Edelman
  • Two Authors, Sixteen Readers, and Ten Days in Peru
Two Authors, Sixteen Readers, and Ten Days in Peru
Written by
Hope Edelman
August 2014
Written by
Hope Edelman
August 2014

When author Allison Gilbert called me with an “exciting idea,” I knew to be ready for anything. Allison has been a close friend since she contacted me years ago regarding her writings about adult orphans, and I’ve learned to think of her as an idea factory with a natural knack for innovation. She was now writing an article for CNN.com about purpose-driven trips, she explained, and had come across a nonprofit organization called Trekking for Kids, which combines volunteer work at orphanages with personal physical challenges like mountain climbing or high-altitude treks.

“I know this sounds crazy,” she said, “but what do you think about approaching them to do a trip like that with some of our readers?”

It didn’t sound crazy at all. I’d been meeting with, organizing, and advocating for motherless women and girls for the past two decades since the publication of my first book, Motherless Daughters. I’d always wanted to bring a group to work in an orphanage overseas, but had been daunted by the amount of administrative and prep work such a trip involves. The idea of partnering with an organization that could do that part was appealing. I looked at the Trekking for Kids web site, and I was sold.

2014 already promised to be a momentous year. It would it mark the 20th anniversary of Motherless Daughters and the release of a third edition of the book, and the first Motherless Daughters conference was planned for that May. In addition, I was turning 50 that June, a decade my mother had never gotten to see and a personal milestone for me.

A trip as Allison was describing seemed like the exact opposite of a crazy idea. It seemed like a perfect union of our books Motherless Daughters (mine) and Parentless Parents (hers).

We set up a conference call with the TFK organizers and it became clear we were a good match. The company wanted to start offering custom trips; we could be their trial run. We chose Peru as our destination because TFK had done several treks there before; we could include a day at Machu Picchu, which is on nearly everyone’s bucket list; and the time change wouldn’t be egregious for most of our participants. Within a few weeks, the plans for Turning Loss Into Service: Motherless Daughters and Parentless Parents Unite to Help Orphans In Peru were set.

We opened pre-registration to the leaders and members of Motherless Daughters and Parentless Parents Support Groups worldwide. Women immediately started signing up. The $2395 price tag plus air fare and a commitment to raise a minimum of $1000 for the orphanage was hefty, but ten months gave women time to prepare. By December we had nearly full enrollment, and by the spring of 2014 sixteen women were set to go. They signed up from all over the United States; Canada; Thailand; and Dubai. We quickly set up a Facebook page where trekkers could post travel plans, discuss gear purchases, and share training tips in advance.

Because for a trek like this, one needs to train. TFK’s mission includes edging trekkers out of their comfort zones to achieve more than they personally thought they could. We realized this when we met up in Cuzco, Peru, on July 30, at an altitude of 11,300 feet. An immediate sisterhood formed over cups of coca tea— a hedge against altitude sickness. We did our service work at Ninos del Sol children's home in Urubamba, two hours outside of Cuzco, where we helped build a greenhouse with the money we’d raised. We fell in love with the twenty-three children who are thriving under the care of the Peruvian-Israeli couple who’ve committed to raising “The Niños” as one big family. And we trekked and camped together through the majestic Andes, and did a day trip in the rain and fog to the mystical Machu Picchu, former retreat of the Inca king.

Authors hear from readers all the time via websites and e-mail. Some of us are fortunate to meet them at readings, workshops, or lectures. But the opportunity to spend ten days with a group of sixteen readers, to get to know them as the unique individuals they are, to join in their shared experience, and to witness them struggle, surrender, and grow from the complexities of Developing Nation travel, was a rare opportunity. Allison’s “crazy idea” turned into a life-changing adventure for eighteen people, including her and me.

On our first night in Cuzco, when everyone gathered in the sitting area of our hotel, Allison and I were both overcome with the realization that what had begun as a phone call had, with the help of TFK, brought eighteen women from all over the world together in Cuzco, Peru. It seemed almost magical, to see what had begun as the spark of an idea become something so animate and real. The wonder and the awe of it was, when I think about it, what an author feels each time she finishes a book. Amazed. Complete.   

Hope Edelman is the author of six nonfiction books, including the bestsellers Motherless Daughters and The Possibility of Everything. She lives in Los Angeles.

Allison Gilbert is an Emmy award-winning journalist and the author of Parentless Parents: How the Loss of Our Mothers and Fathers Impacts the Way We Raise Our Children and Always Too Soon: Voices of Support for Those Who Have Lost Both Parents. She is also co-editor of Covering Catastrophe: Broadcast Journalists Report September 11 and a contributor to The Daily Beast and CNN.com.  You can visit her at allisongilbert.com .

Let's be friends

The Women Behind She Writes

519 articles
12 articles

Featured Members (7)

123 articles
392 articles
54 articles
60 articles

Featured Groups (7)

Trending Articles

  • Marybeth Holleman

    You rock, Hope!

  • Hannah Kozak

    Hope has helped women all around the globe with the publication of her ground breaking book Motherless Daughters while creating support groups for women who have suffered mother loss. What she has accomplished here is a gift to these children. Hope doesn't have to describe herself as spiritual, she just is. She truly understands the Aquarian Age Sutra of "Recognize the Other Person is You" and our shared need to help others and live for others. Blessings to her and Allison.