On these travelers’ nightmare situation in Peru and how you can help

This blog is ultimately about Portland and politics, but this post is about neither of those things. It is about some friends who found themselves in a horrible situation and are now more-or-less alright, though they could use your help.

I went to Sacopee Valley High School with Jed Wolfrom and his younger sister Jennifer, and they were recently on the receiving end of mob violence while visiting Peru. Jed and his wife Meg were taking a year long trip through North, Central and South America, which they chronicled on this blog. After traveling and camping every night for 9 months, Jennifer flew out to visit her brother and sister-in-law in Peru. After a week there, they were faced with a horrific attack. What follows are excerpts from Jennifer’s report to an agency set up to help travelers who experience violence abroad:

 

We drove over the first blockade and there were villagers up on the hill above the road continuing to throw rocks at the truck. They threw a large rock through the passenger window, breaking it and hitting me in the face and cutting my jaw. They also threw a rock through the driver’s side window, hitting my brother. We soon were met with another large road blockade of boulders that we could not drive through. At this blockade they threw rocks at the windshield and destroyed it. We veered off the road to try to drive around the blockade and got stuck in a huge ditch and could not drive anymore. We were being bombarded with rocks and had to escape from the vehicle.

[...]

We eventually were surrounded by villagers who continued to beat us until they decided to bring us back to the Presidente of the village. We were forced to walk back to meet the Presidente where we pleaded with him to let us go. At this point we were all bleeding severely from our heads and Joseph´s front teeth were knocked out and his eye blundered shut by a rock. It was raining and freezing and my brother had lost a shoe running through a river. After a long discussion between the villagers and the presidente, he demanded that we be forced to walk about a mile in the freezing rain back up to the village school. We told them that we would just leave and they could have all of our stuff, but they would not let us leave. During that time I was beaten in the head with a large board,  Meghan was kicked in her back extremely hard, and rocks continued to be thrown at us.

[...]

We immediately saw that there were at least three villagers that had at least three guns, one that we know was a 20 or 12 gauge shot gun. We tried to shield ourselves from the guns and again pleaded for them not to kill us. We were forced into the middle of the circle by men holding whips and we were held at gun point while again the villagers addressed the Presidente with their stories and ideas for our lives. At least one gun shot was shot towards us in the circle.

The entirety of the terrifying account can be read here.

Fortunately Jed, Jennifer and Meghan were able to get away and they are in the process of getting things sorted out. They could use help, though. This is from a fund-raising site set up by friends of theirs:

As many people are already aware, Jenny, Jed and Meghan have been through a very traumatic experience in Peru.  They were attacked, beaten and held against their will.

Thankfully, they are alive and safe and recovering in Cuzco.  They have suffered injuries, but will all be able to recover fully physically.  The link here is an account of the incident written up by Jenny to an agency who is set up to help travelers who experience violence abroad.  They have yet to hear back from them.

We have had a lot requests from people who want to help, most importantly, please share this story to anyone who will listen to help expedite their journey home and protect other travelers from the same thing.

For others who would like to donate to a fund that will help pay for any expenses related to this incident you can do so here.  Thank you for your support.

I have both traveled and been in frightening travel-related situations in the past, though none were violent like this one. I am a lover of travel, and I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I share this story reluctantly. I am afraid that it might be sensationalized and effectively used as an excuse for some to avoid seeing this beautiful planet and meeting our many generous global neighbors. There is no situation more dangerous than a nation as powerful as ours is inhabited by those unwilling to understand our place and our neighbors. That said, these are friends and fellow Mainers who ran into a shitty and terrifying situation abroad, and they need some help. So please do share their story and help if you can.

UPDATE (January 4, 2012, 11:18am): I just received this update from the friends of the Wolfroms who had set up the aforementioned relief account:

On behalf of the Wolfrom family, we wanted to thank you so much for your incredible outpouring of support. This has exceeded anything we could have ever asked for and has done so much to help the situation. Together you have eliminated a world of stress, anxiety and have given us so much strength.

Jenny, Jed and Meghan are heading to Lima today hopefully and will be arriving at the US Embassy to help expedite the process of leaving Peru.

As administrator, I’m going to close the account around 10am EST this morning so that the funds can be transferred to a SECURE and verified account that the Wolfrom’s have access to. I want to personally let you know that I have seen and spoken with Jenny, Jed and Meghan multiple times and things are legit.

I will either re-open another fund or keep this one live if others want to donate, but please don’t be surprised if you see a low balance once I take the funds out.

Thank you again for your support!

UPDATE (January 4, 2012, 11:18pm): Meghan has posted this update:

I want to thank everyone for the amazing amount of support we have received over the last 24 hours!  The money that has been donated towards our recovery and safe return is more than we could have asked for.  The calls to government officials and to the American Embassy in Peru have been a tremendous help to get things moving on our end.  They are kicking ass trying to take care of our needs right now.  We have received wonderful contacts within the country for medical and legal services.  Any future help is best received by keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

We have also received a great amount of support and disbelief from Peruvians over this incident taking place in their country.  We would like to express that we too are in disbelief.  We have spent two amazing months in this country before this incident and cannot say we met a single other sole that wasn’t warm and welcoming to us.  There are bad people everywhere in the world, in every country, just as there is good everywhere in the world.  We just happened to enter in to the wrong place at the wrong time.  We in no way reflect this situation on the country as a whole and hope that others will react in the same manner.

Right now we are all working towards several goals, with the highest priority being on our safety and health.  Jenny will be on a return flight home as soon as possible, and Jed and I too are looking to leave the country as soon as possible. We have yet to decide by what means this will be, but we will in no way go in a direction that we feel will jeopardize our safety.  There are many hoops we need to jump through before we get to that point.  I can say though, that we will be home sooner rather than later as originally planned.

Again we appreciate everyone’s tremendous support and concern for us.  We feel truly blessed by all of it.  Just knowing that there are so many out there who care has helped us come a long way mentally.  We can feel your strength behind us and it has provided us with a renewed strength, pushing us through this situation.  For this we cannot express our gratitude enough.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.