Students Complete Service Project in Peru During April Break

Students Complete Service Project in Peru During April Break

Julia Sandquist

Seniors Julia Adams, Julia Sandquist, and Ellie Kalemkeridis pose for a picture atop Machu Picchu

The plane finally touched down in Cusco, Peru, and our group, consisting of 21 Walpole High students and 3 teachers, got the first glimpse of the Peruvian culture we would be immersed in for the next 10 days. Our Peruvian tour guide, Washington, led the way as we strolled through farmers markets and got a glimpse of traditional Peruvian dress styles and the natives’ simple, yet refreshing way of life.

The next day, we traveled to Ollantaytambo, where we took an hour-long train ride up through the mountains to view one of the most mysterious, yet fascinating seven wonders of the world that is Machu Picchu. It’s a rainy day as we chugged up the rugged Andes mountains, yet the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu were still one of the most beautiful places on earth. After exploring the ruins, we hiked up the last stretch of the Inca trail to the Sun Gate, which boasts a picture-perfect vantage point overlooking the world’s most famous ruins and the mountains that surround it.

Saturday, we visited an ancient Inca temple in Ollantaytambo, and on our hike up the 300 steps, we encountered a tight knit community of Quechua speakers dressed in colorful ponchos and hats, who had come to the temple to learn about their own heritage. We took photos with the lively and animated children, and soon after, we hopped on our bus to endure an 8 hour bus ride to Puno, a city on the shores of Lake Titicaca near Laquina Peninsula, where we would be completing our service project.

Our group arrived by boat to Laquina, where we were greeted by our Mamitas and Papas, our “mothers” and “fathers,” who would provide meals and a bedroom in their homes for us to stay in for the next two days.

We soon learned that our service project required a great deal of physical labor, as we carried sand and rocks up a hill to create a walking path for the community, which will encourage sustainable tourism on the island and provide a steady source of income for the people who live there.

After two days of hard work, we rewarded ourselves with a kayak tour along the shores of Lake Titicaca and a hike up the beautiful Taquile Island on our last full day before heading home to the United States.

As I sit here on my eight hour flight back home, I reflect upon my time in Peru. I know that this trip was an extremely eye opening experience, as I got the chance to visit a developing country that was completely different from my own. I explored the rich Inca history of Peru that still defines its citizens today, and I also served the people of Laquina Peninsula, where I had the rare opportunity as a tourist to submerge myself directly into the native culture, as I lived in my mamita’s home, tasted her traditional cooking, and attempted to conquer the language barrier between us. The lively spirit of the kind-hearted people that I met at Laquina was incredible, and it’s something I will never forget. The vibrant spirit and fierce  pride I witnessed in the people of Laquina is also present within the rich culture of Peru itself, and I know for sure that I have brought a piece of it back to Boston with me to share it with others so that I can make my community a better place.