Director of Service-Learning
Office of Service-Learning
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
Peru - Spring Break 2012
When most people envision Peru, they see a lush Andean landscape, ancient Incan temples, fine cuisine, and a culturally exquisite populace. Although these are undoubtedly a sampling of Peru's main attractions, the country offers so much more that the typical traveler rarely experiences. This March, 11 Eckerd students and 1 staff member worked alongside a small settlement community called 30 de Mayo on the outskirts of Lima, a part of the country excluded from the glossy pages of guidebooks and extravagant travelogues. The week was spent working with a non-profit called Niño Luz, which aims to improve educational opportunities and preserve cultural traditions among youth living in this impoverished neighborhood.
After a late-night airport pickup by the NGO director and his family involving traditional flute music and bustling conversation, it was clear from the onset it was going to be a memorable week. We settled into our home-away-from-home with our new Peruvian family, beginning work the next morning amid the steep, rocky foothills of the Andes Mountains. Efforts throughout the week contributed to the construction of a new classroom for preschool students. With the guidance of skilled local workers, the group made iron framing out of rebar, demolished an old shelter, excavated a rocky hillside with shovels and pickaxes, mixed several batches of cement, constructed a cement base for a wall, and built a brick wall. The work was grueling, but the group was fueled by hearty Peruvian cooking and unbridled enthusiasm (not to mention brute strength). While the classroom is not entirely complete, significant strides were made on the project, which should be finished in the near future.
Although the majority of the week was spent doing service, there was time for a few diversions. We visited ancient ruins, toured the center of Lima, shopped an Incan market, and enjoyed beachside ceviche. We also had the opportunity to participate in a mountaintop Incan ceremony and a traditional festival. For many, the week was a first glimpse into the extreme poverty that plagues much of Latin America- in Peru more than one fifth of the population lives on less than $2 US a day. For all, it was also a unique opportunity to experience Incan culture, develop sense of community amongst our group and local hosts, and contribute to the efforts of an admirable social organization.