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In 2002, at the age of 71, Sonia Newhouse decided to leave her life in England and move to Peru. She began her adventure by dedicating five years to volunteering in Cusco, where she lived and worked closely with the people of the Sacred Valley. While she formed meaningful relationships with the locals, Sonia began to recognize the presence of issues such as malnutrition and domestic violence. Sonia couldn’t stand to see these issues persist with such little recognition and even less assistance from the international community, so she committed to raise awareness and support for these vulnerable people.
Although she had no experience running a restaurant, Sonia was fueled by a drive to help, and so she opened Hearts Café in the Sacred Valley village of Ollantaytambo, a popular stop for tourists on their way to Machu Picchu. The café placed an emphasis on educating visitors about the highland communities through educational materials and by employing local women in need. The publicity from Hearts Café allowed Sonia to start the Living Heart NGO in 2007. The charity is registered in the UK and in Peru, and it was dedicated to helping with education, health, and nutrition projects in several communities above the valley.
With the success of many of Living Heart’s initiatives came more publicity and more requests for help. In 2015 Sonia passed the leadership of the NGO on to Io Sophia Gillhuber, who maintains the organization’s commitment to helping people to help themselves while respecting their self-identified needs, visions and desires. We believe firmly in the potential of the people in the remote Andes to overcome adversity and we are here to help them however we can.