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Acting Director of Service-Learning
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Peru: Spring Break 11
A trip to Peru, regardless of your destination, is bound to encounter numerous references to Machu Pichu. Our spring break group's journey to Peru didn't include the sights or climbing of the famed Incan site, but we overcame equally challenging endeavors, enjoyed some magnificent times together and even saw some lesser known Incan ruins. Aside from an enjoyable off campus adventure, the primary goal of our trip was to help Niño Luz, an education center located in the community of 30 de Mayo outside of Lima. With this goal in mind, Kate Farley, one of the Co-Leaders, was extremely diligent in working to secure $4,000 in fundraising for Niño Luz, with the intent of building a new classroom.
The Peru crew got an early start to Saturday with a long drive to the Miami airport and ultimately arrived in Lima, Peru around 1am Sunday morning after a brief layover in Bogota, Colombia. We were welcomed to our new home by a Peruvian greeting party consisting of Teofilo (Teo) Vitor, President of Niño Luz, some of his family members, and two former Niño Luz students, Juan and Freddy. Many in our group had expressed in their applications a desire to practice Spanish, have a unique cultural experience, and make new friends while in Peru. It is safe to say that from the moment they met Teo at the airport until departing a week later, they got their fill of all three. Teo lives and breathes his Incan heritage down to the colorful clothing, faith in the gods, and belief in the power of natures elements.
Teo took the group on an educational journey of the Incan culture while visiting ruins in the nearby community, he introduced us to traditional Peruvian food, and some would say, helped us prepare for construction at Niño Luz in the ancient 16th century Incan way by clearing rocks with our hands and a wheelbarrow. The food was excellent and plentiful; as it took all the calories we could consume to keep everyone going as we cleared rocks and dirt to prepare for a new cement wall to provide safety and stability to Niño Luz. Our dreams of building a classroom had been whisked away, but we were helping to sustain Niño Luz and the safety of the children so we battled on day after day.
In addition to the manual labor we mixed in some fun time. There were plenty of children around to play games, kick the soccer ball around, or just do kid type stuff throughout the week. Freddy and Juan were quick to school us on the soccer pitch with their talents and good humor. Midweek we had a big birthday celebration with all the Niño Luz children for Ashley, who was celebrating her 21st. There was cake, goodies, piñatas and even a couple crazy clowns. The day was capped with some shopping and site seeing in Lima. Loaded with new alpaca sweaters, tapestries, Incan pants, and many other purchases we headed "home" with smiles on our faces and gifts for loved ones back home.
Near the end of the week we were entertained by a cultural celebration with many people from the surrounding pueblo that culminated with dancing around a tree we took turns chopping at until it fell and a mad scramble for the gifts it contained ensued. It was a fun way to interact with more than just the Niño Luz group and see the community come together. The final day in Peru we were able to relax, have some leisure time and just enjoy being in a foreign country with many sights, sounds, smells, and tastes to explore. Our final dinner was a special treat to celebrate what we had done for Niño Luz, appreciate the other people we had spent the week with, and just enjoy the company of new friends.