A Memorable Christmas in Cusco

Christmas with Peruvian Hearts in Cusco, Peru
Funny faces for Christmas!

One of the greatest things about travel is how the people you meet dictate your decisions and experiences. I strongly believe that individuals are put into your path for a reason and it’s up to you to take advantage of the opportunity and figure out why they’re there.

It was Christmas Eve in Cusco and I was eating breakfast alone in the hostel, when 2 lovely ladies walked in and sat down next to me. Of course, my first thought was, a 3-some for Christmas would be great, but I quickly changed focus once we began talking. Turns out, I met friends from California and were in Cusco working with Peruvian Hearts, an organization that works to enhance the lives of orphans and other children living in poverty in Peru. I was impressed, and began to explain my literacy project plans for Bolivia. As we chatted a bit more I realized that Lindsay and I had lived in the same neighborhood back in San Diego and that she had worked for StayClassy, an organization based in SD that I knew very well. They told me they were going to spend Christmas with some of the orphans at their home  and asked if I wanted to tag along. Before they had a chance to retract the invite, I jumped on the opportunity to do something more with my holiday.

Christmas with Peruvian Hearts in Cusco, Peru
Somebody wanted to chug her hot chocolate.

We arrived at the Hogar Mercedes de Jesus Molina on Christmas afternoon with hot cocoa and panetone (like fruit cake) and my friennds (Kristen and Lindsey) brought lots of great gifts for the girls. They also did a great job organizing activities, but once we got there we quickly realized that the head mother would be running the show. It was great!

Christmas with Peruvian Hearts in Cusco, Peru
The girls singing us Christmas songs when we first arrived.

She sat the 3 of us down and had the girls line up and sing us Christmas carols.  Then she told the girls to pay attention as she asked us to sing to them. Somehow I was then suckered into giving a solo performance, which everyone regretted immediately after.

In light of my pitiful singing, we decided to change gears and move into the dining room for a snack and some dancing. We played musical chairs, danced around in circles and Kristen and I put on a playful dance number for everyone to laugh at.

After the dance sequence we all sat around and enjoyed the hot cocoa and panetone before we broke out the art supplies to draw and decorate the GUESS fanny packs K & L brought. We laughed and chatted for hours before the sun came down and it was time for us to leave.

Christmas with Peruvian Hearts in Cusco, Peru
Designing the GUESS fanny packs Kiersten & Lindsay brought for the girls.

The girls were amazing and were so happy and appreciative to have visitors, and I was thrilled to be a little part of their Christmas. I couldn’t thank Linsday and Kristen enough for such a unique and humbling experience. This was definitely a Christmas I’ll never forget.

Christmas with Peruvian Hearts in Cusco, Peru
The whole crew together for a nice Christmas photo. What a day.

My plan is to travel around La Paz and then head to Cochabamba to work with the Orphaned Starfish Foundation for a few days before returning to Sucre and the BiblioWorks project. I’m excited about making an impact while living in Bolivia.

My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!


  1. Awww how sweet! What a great way to capture such an awesome story and a great holiday we shared.

    Although, I must correct the story, it was YOU who entered the commedor and asked to eat your breakfast with US. But we certainly did not protest. 😉

    paz y amor amigo!

    1. Haha, true story. Although, it was you two who sparked the convo… I just wanted to sit in peace and eat my breakfast. : )

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