This is the third post in our SPARK Abroad blog series in which Associate Director of Corporate Relations, Alex Quinn, attended the trip.
We used the first couple of days that we were in Cusco to visit many of the local sights around Cusco and experience the Peruvian culture, but the most important part of our trip was our service project. This trip was designed to align with Golden Key’s SPARK a Change program, so it was imperative that our service initiative served at-risk youth in the fields of literacy, education and real-world preparedness. To make this happen, we worked with a world-renowned non-governmental organization called Peru’s Challenge, which works with volunteers to build sustainable schools and communities.
On the first day of our service project, we drove about 10 minutes higher up into the hills of Cusco to take a tour of the second school that was completed by Peru’s Challenge, Pumamarca. Although the city of Cusco sits only a few miles away from where we were, the road that we took to get to Pumamarca was quite rural, and it was clear that we were moving into a less developed part of town. In fact, because of the area’s isolation, the Department of Education in Peru does not financially support the local primary school, so the school is left to support itself.
Just as with the house that we were staying at, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the school when we pulled up to the entrance. The area was surrounded by a tall, brightly-colored wall that prevented us from being able to see anything on the inside, but when we walked in, we were taken away.
The inside of the school was gorgeous, and the children were as friendly as could be! They welcomed us with hugs and high fives as soon as we walked in, and we could immediately feel the appreciation that the kids had for the volunteers. What impressed me most about the school is how it was designed not to just support the students but the entire community. There were five greenhouses towards the back of the school where the students could grow their own food, and the center of the school was a fenced-in farming area with alpacas living in it. The parents in the community would come in every month or so to shave the alpacas to make clothing to sell in the city, which helped to support the families.
Visiting this school was a critical part of our experience working with Peru’s Challenge– seeing what we are working for and interacting with the children truly inspired our entire group. It also made our experience particularly special in that the school that we were going to work at for the next three days was in its beginning stages of construction. It was a single school building on a patch of flattened land, so we were able to see what these projects look like from start to finish.
Over the course of the next few days, we prepared for the first greenhouse on the school grounds to be built. This called for some taxing effort on our part, but our group worked hard to make sure that we left as big of an impact on the community as possible in our three days there. By the end of our time working there, we had laid the foundation of the greenhouse, which required moving mud bricks to the building site, breaking up stones, making concrete, laying the concrete and putting down the first level of mud bricks.
Overall, I can say that this was one of the more rewarding experiences of my life. Not only were the students, teachers and parents loving and thankful, but you can feel the passion when the co-founders Jane and Selvy talk about the program. I am so appreciative that I had the opportunity to take part in this project, and I hope that I will be able to go back one day and work with them again!
This completes our blog series on the first ever SPARK Abroad trip to Peru. If you are interested in attending a SPARK Abroad tour this upcoming December or next June, you can visit the the SPARK Abroad page on Golden Key’s website to learn more about the trips.