Who We Are
James and Cecelia Simon
We have been married for 38 years and are members of St. Brigid Parish in Pacific Beach. We founded Grupo de Veinte Foundation in 2012. This year will be our ninth year as Catholic Missionaries in Peru.
Our journey began by walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain in 2005. After that experience, we decided to start planning an exit from our small business and seek out a locale in South American to be of service to people via an organization or established group.
In 2007 we joined a group of friends and traveled to Guayaquil in Ecuador where we helped outfit a new hospital with equipment. The following year, we again traveled to Ecuador and began studying Spanish and, at the hospital in Guayaquil, we helped the Padre and sisters with small improvement projects, visited the sick, worked in a soup kitchen and then began traveling around the country to work with the sisters who had moved to pueblos in other provinces.
We began spending three months a year in Ecuador but in our 4th year, we also felt a calling to venture into Peru. We began working in the high Andes Mountains, six hours south of Cusco, Peru. We established contacts, agreed upon future projects based upon our fundraising results and continued Spanish instruction.
Then, in 2012 we started our non-profit foundation, and now in collaboration with our board of directors, we plan and complete a multitude of projects each year.
Where We Are
Grupo de Veinte Foundation’s missionary projects begin in Cuzco, Perú (altitude of 11,200 ft.) and from that point, extend southerly to the city of Sicuani, which is approximately 120 miles southeast of Cusco, and into the Provence of Chumbivilcas. From Sicuani, the Provence of Chumbivilcas spreads in a southwesterly direction, and encompasses more than 2,070 square miles.
Mainly Indigenous of Inca descent, these welcoming and hospitable people are generous with the little they have, and are most appreciative of Grupo's assistance with and support of their projects. Men and women are equally enthusiastic and willing to help in all projects; from making adobe bricks for the structures, clearing land of rock, digging trenches, constructing the buildings, painting, etc. They are an inspiration to us; and while we support their projects, we also strive to help them retain their cultural identity. Their language is primarily Quechua (91%). A small percentage of the people speak Spanish.
The high Andes Mountains extend throughout this area.
Currently Grupo de Veinte does the larger percentage of its missionary work in the Provence of Chumbivilcas and covers one-half of the area of the Provence (1,000 square miles). The vast majority of the pueblos visited are at altitudes ranging from 11,200 to 15,000 feet.
There are 77 rural communities in the Provence of Chumbivilcas, one of the poorest regions in Peru and one of the most malnourished. Half of the population is under 16 years old and families with eight children are not unusual.
Chumbivilcas consists of mostly dry, desolate high mountains with scattered pueblos connected by narrow mountain roads. A number of the people are herders and there are vast grazing lands for impala, alpaca, sheep and some cattle.
Rob is a member of St. Brigid Parish in Pacific Beach, CA. He met Jim and Cece Simon through the Cursillo Movement that practices prayer, study, and action. He has been a Grupo de Veinte Foundation board member since 2012.