Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face,

the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited,

and the wealth and confusionman has created.

It is a major force in explaining man to man, and each to himself.

And that is the most complicated thing on earth.

Edward Steichen

RUKA, PERUVIAN ANDES © Copyright 2012, daniel malka, all rights reserved
View from Ruka, temperature 2 degrees celsius.

Altitude 3500 meters
Population, 25 families, about 200 people
Main source of income, men are porters on the Inca Trail during the tourist season People live mostly of the land: potatoes Working Hours: from sunrise to sunset
Temperature: from -5 to 15 degrees celsius at peak sun hours during day time
Heating source in homes: none
Construction: adobe bricks (earth and straw), plastic or straw roofing
School: one to two hours away
Medical or Emergency access: none
Road access: none. A 2 km very narrow dirt and rocky trail at times with dangerous curves going uphill. Donkeys can be used for transport, but generally men like women of all ages carry  heavy loads on their back from the main road to Ruka
Communication: poor cellular signal in one or two points. No internet access
Running water: none, but in one year it will be installed
Electricity: very rudimentary and intermittent
Nutrition: potatoes, very little carrots, no fruit, corn, scattered noodles, very occasional guinea pig or canned tuna
Clothing: rubber sandals all year long, cotton layers, no coats and traditional Ponchos
Education: primary and secondary schools 1 to 2 hour walk from Ruka


Ruka in Quetchoua comes from Roca in spanish, which means Rock. In the silence, peace and beauty of the Peruvian Andes, there are hundreds of communities like Ruka, some are at altitudes close to and even above 5000m.
Ruka is a perfect example, a cross section of the life in these communities. They have managed to preserve their culture, their environment, their language and above all their kindness and humanism.

© Copyright 2012, daniel malka, all rights reserved
They suffer from isolation (not by choice but by history), from cold, malnutrition, and many children die every winter, as in many cases the temperature can drop to the minus twenties. The trees are scarce due the deforestation. Therefore there is no heating in the homes.
Of course it is difficult to imagine for any average Canadian for example. Such level of poverty and rugged living conditions are to be lived and seen, in order to be understood. The willpower and survival skills of these forgotten people are an example to all the rest of us, and probably another one of the so many mysteries of the Inca and Andes culture.
What is not a mystery, and what history keeps teaching us, is that the future of humanity lies in the education and well being of the present of all of our children. I came to Ruka to learn and to educate. I wanted to share with these children a bit of what I offered and shared with my own daughter. I am a strong believer, that bit by bit, we can all do our share to bring some light and hope to all the children of the so many Rukas in this world.  


As part of my teaching and cultural exchange, also due to the climbing to the village, I decided to stay and live in Ruka. I shared their lives, they shared their food, culture and infinite kindness.
The 2 km trek is not easy to travel, due to the height in many places,. I suffer from vertigo. Luckily enough there was little rain while I was there. The path becomes slippery and quite dangerous. This is the path the kids travel through every day , rain or shine, to and back from school.

This is one safe area of the path, It is wider and less steep (on the way down).

© 2012 daniel malka, all rights reserved

We met this man on the way up. He was coming home from work on the Inca Trail. He quit his job because his donkey gave birth while on the trail. In this photo, we get more of an idea of the condition of the 2 km windy trail.

I was greeted like a Prince by the Community president and his wife. Feliciano is 23 and his wife 20  years old. They have a beautiful 7 week old baby girl. I ate 3 meals a day with them.

© 2012 daniel malka, all rights reserved

6:30 AM Feliciano is off to work

© 2012 daniel malka, all rights reserved

Feliciano works on the irrigation project from the municipality of Willok that supplies work to 14 men of Ruka The water fall seen in this photograph supplies not only Ruka, but other communities above Ruka. It is contaminated and soiled as people do their laundry, and even wash diapers in the source. Although the water is boiled, we need to consider that at higher altitude, water boils at less than 100 degrees Celsius. When the children are thirsty, they drink directly from the source. Hence they suffer from intestinal parasites.

  I was given the best house they had, wich they call a room. The inside temperature is lower than the outside. I would say that at night, the room temperature must of been about 5 degrees Celsius. Although the external drives hated the cold and the electricity cycle irregularly, I felt right at home.

© 2012 daniel malka, all rights reserved

My Home in Ruka

I ate and and lived the same way as the Ruka family for 2 weeks, except for the physical work that they all do all day.
After the first 6 days, I had to get to a hotel to rest, warm up and connect with the outside world.
Although I absorbed a concentrated protein supplement 3 times a day, I lost 5 pounds in less than 2 weeks.
The diet consisted of potatoes, a bit of rice once in a while, and a can of tuna once in two weeks.
I am still amazed at the willpower of these men, women and children that work so hard with such low protein and vitamin intake in such cold conditions.
Of course they are undernurished and all suffer of malnutrition. I have not seen any source of calcium such as milk or cheese in their diet. The malnutrition starts at birth, if we consider that animal fats are necessary for proper brain and neurological development in the first two years of life. (I knew that my Masters in Cell Biology would come in handy some day).

© 2012 daniel malka, all rights reserved

Turning the earth over for the preparation of potato seeds sowing, is hard manual task.

Ruka is all in slope. Therefore, the amount of energy burnt, just to move around is probably double than in a normal city environment. If we add to that the lower oxygen level due to altitude and the extra calories burnt for breathing purposes, we probably get up to 2 to 3 times the calorie consumption than an average city person.

© 2012 daniel malka, all rights reserved

A typical small potato plantation.

The lack of protein and calcium are obvious in the lack of muscle mass in the legs of the men and women from Ruka if we consider their level of physical activities. Moreover, the women from Ruka start loading on their back since a very young age. It can be babies and children, or piles of twigs for the cooking chemeney less in home fires. As they grow older, the evidence of lack of calcium becomes more obvious in the arched back and legs of the women.

© 2012 daniel malka, all rights reserved

Ruka lady picking up her sheep. The sheep are used to produce the wool for the fabrics

© 2012 daniel malka, all rights reserved

The women of Ruka work at all ages, they also teach the cultire preservation to the next generations

The  children from Ruka also work. They work with their family and not for the family. It’s part of preserving tradition and culture.
They share various tasks such as taking care of animals or helping in the fields.
Everyone works in Ruka. Bathing in silence and beauty, there is an amazing sense of peace and community. Everyone does their part for their family as much as for their community. Some call it habit of survival, I call it sharing and  true human values. An example and a model to admire for the rest of us who live in the chaos of progress and the growing lack of humanism of our ever growing civilized and developed cities.

© 2012 daniel malka, all rights reserved

6:00 am, the children peacefully take the donkeys for a walk before going to school


© Copyright 2012, daniel malka, all rights reserved

Of course, we are promoting creative thinking and teaching story telling through photography.
One of the biggest challenges is to to have a sustainable project.
The challenge is in giving them the tools to create a social change  and improvement of their daily lives within the best of their knowledge and environment while respecting and preserving their culture and environment.
As I sat on my stone in Ruka, , morning after morning, looking at that snow covered peak braving time, history and the clouds, I wondered what can WE do for these children and their community in order to keep the creative process alive and improve their living conditions.
The answer is in this land and soil I thought to myself.
I remembered the story of the dying farmer by Victor Hugo that my father use to tell me.
This farmer on his dying bed calls all of his children. He tells them that there is a treasure hidden in his land, they have to look for it.
After his death, the children started to dig and turn the earth over and over again, looking desperately for the treasure.
They finally understood that the treasure was the crop produced from working the land and turning it over  and over so many times.
The people from Ruka, know their land better than anyone.
The Incas said that the mountains gave everything that a man needed to survive. Looking at that rocky earth being turned over, seeing the respect of the land by these men, I had an idea. I came back to Cusco, discussed with my friend Ivan, a chemical engineer, the various issues I noticed in Ruka, and concluded that the main issue was malnutrition in cold climate conditions. As a matter of fact, many children dye of cold in many communities in Puno and other areas of Peru at altitudes of above 4000 meters. We needed to solve the vitamin and protein intake as well as the auto-sufficiency  of the community.
The children from Ruka are smart. They are quick learners and hard workers. They are disciplined and respectful not only of their values, the people, but also their land and what it provides. The idea became for the children to grow their own crop of vegetables, certain fruits like grapes and beans.
How and where? Building a Bio-thermal greenhouse would do it. A place that neither the wind the rain or the cold could affect.
They have a soil full of minerals. They have menure from the animals. they also have the knowledge to cultivate.
Ivan and I sat and made calculations. 10 square meters of greenhouse per family, not only would supply the missing nutrients but also enough for them to be able to sell some produce to the local markets. The multilevel bio-thermal greenhouse would be of approximately of 250 square meters.
So, 7 months ago I had the dream of helping these children through photo documenting . It was hard to get to Ruka, but we made it.
The photos of, and, by the children speak for themselves. It’s like a fairy tale. Their maturity, willpower, desire to learn and to achieve is beyond most expectations of most average children of their age. These kids would show up at my door at 6 am when class was scheduled at 9. They would ask if there was any homework they could do before class starts. They love photography, they love life, and in their eyes glows a light of unconditional happiness and hope.  


© Copyright 2012, daniel malka, all rights reserved A 5 year old’s foot

The children of Ruka need: Warm Clothing to wear under their little ponchos Closed shoes and rubber boots Books to read, they love stories Notebooks, papers and crayons
A laptop to stay with the president of the community
A proper and safer trail to get to school and back: It is part of our project to fix the existing one. Medication: Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, Antibiotics, first aid kits, thermometers. These kids suffer from chronic colds and bronchial infections and intestinal parasites from contaminated water


© Copyright 2012, daniel malka, all rights reserved

So, this is the next dream and reality, from Ruka to Canada, from Canada to the Peruvian Andes, we can all share this dream and make it happen.
I made the first dream happen by putting in everything I owned to help these children.
They answered by returning way more than we could ever offer.

© Copyright 2012, daniel malka, all rights reserved

It will become an example of culture and environment preservation, perseverance and creativity, nature beating poverty, an example for all of us and our children, that dreams can follow us and become real if if we follow them. I am calling upon everyone to support the efforts of the children of Ruka, to diffuse and promote their work, through social networks, emails, galleries, press and other communication means.
I am calling upon NGOs, schools, universities, colleagues, corporations, sponsors and all the people, fortunate and less fortunate to help us trace the route between “HOW THEY SEE and HOW THEY EAT”.
Everyone can offer one square centimeter of greenhouse for ONE dollar to one square meter for 99 dollars, half a square meter for 50$, etc…It’s a one time donation that will feed the children for years to come

YOUR CONTRIBUTION You can contribute with your credit card through PayPal System

You can also do it directly by Bank Transfer to DANIEL MALKA PHOTO PROJECT INC. Non Profit Corporation Registered under Canadian Federal Laws and Quebec Provincial Laws
RBC Banque Royale
5701 Avenue Monkland Montreal QC H4A 1E7
Att: Luna Malka
Code Banque/ Bank (RBC) : 003
Code succursale (Transit) : 03901
Numero de compte/ Account Number : 1005073
Swift Code : R O Y C C A T 2