Our first group for the summer arrived on June 13, 2017 to Cuzco. The students were a bit shy at first but slowly started opening up and making friends. Our group consisted of seven boys and twenty-two girls. Even though we had so many girls, the boys in the group quickly bonded with each other and proved to be louder than everyone else. They also enlightened us with slang from different parts of the US and Canada. The girls also started getting to know each other and making friends.
In my opinion, this first group had the toughest job at service because they are the ones who started everything from scratch! They laid the foundation for all the other groups. Everyone in this group proved to be hard working and determined from day one. On the first day of service we got on the bus outside our home base and 40 minutes later arrived at the community of Mairazgo. It was a beautiful community on top of the mountains, surrounded by lots of nature. The president of the community and the families we would be helping out welcomed us. Each person told us how grateful they were for our service and motivated us to do our best.
Our two weeks of service consisted of digging the ditch for the foundation of our guinea pig houses and, of course, everyone’s favorite part… moving rocks! I’m sure that when we tell people our experience, they will never understand what carrying those rocks implied. They were probably the heaviest things many of us had ever carried in our lives. We had to develop lifting techniques so we wouldn’t hurt our backs and arms, and also attempt many different ways of transporting the rocks. Some of us unsuccessfully attempted to transport the rocks by using wheel barrels and soon realized it was much better to do an assembly line and pass the rocks to each other one by one.
Another part of our daily duties was mixing. Some students loved this one and even got in the mud barefoot. It was by far the easiest way to mix mud because mixing with shovels was extremely heavy, sticky, and often created unpleasant sounds (you guys know exactly what I’m talking about!). Regardless of how each group worked, we all just looked like a big pile of mud and sweat as we slowly walked up the hill to get back on our buses. I say slowly because for the first few days simply walking was a challenge of its own, as we were all struggling to catch our breath in such high altitude.
Throughout our two weeks together we made new friends and pushed ourselves physically and mentally. We played soccer in Patabamba with members of the community and helped the families with chores like shelling beans. We also visited the girls’ orphanage, learned about the work of a Shaman, and enjoyed our city tour (even with one of the guides excessively taking pictures).
It is my great hope that our students still remain in contact with each other and that they were able to take back experiences that will last them a life time. I also hope they were able to share the beauty of Peru, its people and its culture with others back home, and that this experience helps shape them into honorable men and women who will stand up for what’s right.