Connie Kunkle: Eden Prairie’s Beyond Borders
Do you believe in miracles? If you don’t, this story is about coincidences large and small. If you do, it’s evidence that miracles do exist.
Connie Kunkle, a host at Shop NBC and an avid world traveler, was bored while shopping in Peru during her last day in the country. She wandered out of the shop and noticed a parade of school children marching down the street. She grabbed her digital camera and started snapping pictures. Through the viewfinder, she spotted a girl who looked like she might be about 8 years old, walking in the parade who smiled at Kunkle when she caught her attention. Snap.
“Wait,” Kunkle thought, as transferred her camera to view mode. “Did I really just see what I thought I saw?” Sure enough, that adorable looking girl had eyes that were crossed. When she looked up at the parade again, the girl was long gone, but something about her open, friendly expression had moved Kunkle.
Kunkle showed the photo to her tour guide, and asked if there was any way to track this girl down in an attempt to help her. “Sure,” the guide said. But Kunkle never heard from him again.
Kunkle thought about the girl often.
Two years later, Kunkle was sitting on an airplane headed to California, when she saw a man wearing a jacket with a Southern Explorations logo, the travel company she used for her trip to Peru. She struck up a conversation with the man, and before she knew it, she had her laptop out and was pulling up the photo of the girl. The man, Jonathan Borgida, who also happened to be Southern Explorations’ director of operations and sales, was flying to Peru in a few days. He agreed to look for the girl.
A few days later, Kunkle heard from Borgida. “I’ve found the girl, and I’m meeting with her family in a few hours,” he said. “What should I tell her?”
A million thoughts flooded Kunkle’s brain: Did she have money to pay for surgery? How much would it cost? How would she arrange the logistics?
“Tell her I want to help,” Kunkle responded. “I can pay for medical care.”
And Kunkle intended to pay for the medical care until she told the story to her sister. “Don’t you dare do that, because you’ll keep me and everyone else who wants to help from helping,” Kunkle’s sister told her. Kunkle crafted a short e-mail to a few friends and family members, and donations soon followed.
Meanwhile, once Kunkle had given Borgida the okay, he put the wheels of the plan in motion, discussing the possibility of medical help with the family and then working with his Peruvian guides to locate doctors, arrange airfare and book hotels. A month later Borgida came to Kunkle and told her it would cost about $2,500 to fly the little girl, who’s name was Karen Hualpe-Tique, and her mother, Sonia, to Lima for eye surgery to fix Karen’s strabismus.
On November 8, less than two months after Kunkle had met Borgida on the airplane, Karen was on her way to Lima for eye surgery. Kunkle flew to Peru and spent the day with Karen and her mother on November 15 — Karen’s 10th birthday. Kunkle brought books donated by a local elementary school, supplies and a few birthday gifts for Karen, donated by the school, friends and family.
Kunkle says Karen’s family was shocked to learn that someone wanted to help their daughter, but they embraced it. “These people wanted to help their child,” Kunkle says. They had taken Karen to the doctor years before Kunkle met her, but had determined that they’d never be able to afford the surgery, which needed to happen before Karen turned 11. Without the surgery, Karen would have eventually gone blind.
Kunkle hopes to maintain a relationship with Karen and her entire village, and she’s working to find ways to offer help.
Kunkle has no doubt that she was involved in a miracle, but she says she was merely a vehicle not a driving force. “Listen to what’s being laid on your heart,” Kunkle says. “Everything has a reason and a purpose and perfect timing.”
Watch a video of Connie Kunkle sharing her story at northlandchurch.net/media/miracle_in_peru.
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