Niños Hotel Cusco: A beautiful hotel & a beautiful story
It was 1995 when Jolanda van den Berg travelled to Cusco with just one goal: visiting Machu Picchu. But as soon as she returned to the Netherlands, she couldn’t get the image of the cities’ neglected children out of her mind. And so she returned to Cusco, determined to help these children in some way. Thanks to the foundation she started, she’s managed to help thousands of children over the years.
You too can make as difference during your tailor-made trip to Peru: the two popular Niños hotels in the heart of Cusco currently help 600 children have a better life.
Young children wandering the streets of Cusco. Dressed in tatters and looking for food. This is the image that Jolanda can’t get out of her head after her trip to Peru. Children in Cusco and the surrounding area are a vulnerable group; often fatherless and with a family history of alcohol abuse or domestic violence. Jolanda is determined to help and leaves the Netherlands to settle in Cusco, where over time she adopts 12 children and raises them as her own. But to really address the problem she knows she needs to think bigger.
Not numbers but names
She decides to set up a large-scale foundation but lacks a sustainable source of income to make it successful. With the help of sponsors, she eventually buys an old building in the city center and completely transforms it into a hotel. The first Niños Hotel is born; a hotel that has to feel like a home for all, where the help of locals is a central focal point, and where rooms do not have numbers but names. These are the names of Jolanda’s adopted children and the first participants in the project of the Niños Unidos Peruanos Foundation.
Love and attention
I enter the Niños Hotel at Calle Meloc, located less than five minutes walk from the main square. On the green patio guests catch the last sun rays of the day and in the nearby restaurant the fireplace is on. I take a seat next to hotel manager Claudia Galindo, who exchanged her job at a large hotel chain for the Niños Hotel a year ago. Something that she hasn’t regretted for a second, because instead of earning as much money as possible the focus here is on helping as many people as possible. She tells me about the foundation that Jolanda founded now 20 years ago: “These children often come to us without many basic skills, like knowing how to brush their teeth. But more importantly, love and attention was often lacking in their daily lives. Once they join us, they receive a good meal each day, and we help them in doing homework, giving lessons in physical care and space for the development of hobbies and talents. Outside the basic needs such as a good meal, hot shower and medical care, they can rely the foundation for many more things outside of school hours. We have a gym and library and the children are encouraged by the teachers and coaches to do well at school and think about what they want for their future. ”
It’s all about doing something beautiful
Thanks to the foundation, thousands of children in Cusco have been lifted out of a hopeless existence. The two Niños Hotels are indispensable in this, as about 70% of income from each stay goes directly to the foundation. The hotels and restaurants also provide work to 65 locals. The hotels work hard to make everything as sustainable as possible. “Everything at the Niños Hotel is about providing help and doing good work. We do this for example by being conscious about the environment, but also by working as much as possible with local entrepreneurs. “Oscar, one of Jolanda’s adoptive children, is now the coffee supplier and in the restaurants local products are being used as much as possible, which are grown in our own organic garden. In the garden, we are again working with compost made from waste from the hotels and restaurants. We really try to keep everything as local and cyclical as possible.”
Some of the foundation’s children even got a job in the Niños Hotels. You can find Alejandro tending to the reception in the afternoons, after finishing his school work. Claudia: “This is an important element of the foundation. From their 6th to their 18th year they are being helped by the program, then they must be able to do it themselves. The children are not only helped with basic skills but are also coached to work on their future. The difference in the attitude with which they come from the street and how they eventually leave the foundation is huge. Here they feel valued, and that’s the most important thing we can give them.