Mali’s Service Reflection

Over spring break I travelled to Peru with a group of 12 Friends students. Over the course of two weeks, we hiked, swam, toured, bonded, and immersed ourselves in Peruvian culture. With the assistance of our amazing Envoys guides, our group was able to experience Peru both as tourists and as insiders. We participated in the predictable tourist activities like visiting Machu Picchu, the salt mines, and many ruins but we also spent time with local Peruvians and completed a service project in the Amazon rainforest.

I learned the most about Peruvian culture from my home stay family. For seven nights, I was able to spend time with my home stay family and experience everyday Peruvian life. My family took me to multiple birthday celebrations where they shared with me many unfamiliar dishes that may or may not have been guinea pig. My family taught me Peruvian dances, such as salsa, and showed me a different meaning to the word family. The extended family of my host family lived within a 5 block radius of each other and they engaged with each other many times everyday. I noticed that my home-stay brother spent more time with his cousin than I do with my brother even though we live in the same house. In comparison to the Americans, Peruvians seem to value family more. When returning home to New York, I tried to bring back with me the kindness of home-stay family, and their belief in the importance of family.

Another meaningful experience was completing our service project in the Amazon. After a long morning of swimming, both in the river and the pool, and a delicious lunch at the beautiful reserve, our group got onto a boat and travelled for around twenty minutes to a family farm. That afternoon, we planted 50 trees under the burning Amazonian sun in an area that had been deforested. It was great to get down and dirty under the sun and it felt incredibly rewarding to know that we were helping both the environment and the Peruvian family. The next day we went to another farm and planted 30 trees. The families of each farm were appreciative of the work we did on their farms and rewarded us with fresh grapefruits and coconut water and an archery lesson. Thanks to our amazing supervisors and group. I had an incredible time in a beautiful country. I know that I’ll remember the experiences I had in Peru for the rest of my life.

 

Ashley and my host-familes

Ashley and my host-familes

 

 

Volunteering in Amazon

Volunteering in Amazon

 

Selfie-Stick in Macchu

Selfie-Stick in Macchu

Hailey’s Time in Peru

Over spring break, I went on the Peru Trip with 11 other Friends Seminary students. Travelling through Juliaca, Puno, Cusco, Puerto Maldonado, and Lima was an amazing experience. I had a great time getting to learn about and experience peruvian culture. The food was delicious, the people were kind and the landscape was beautiful. One of my favorite parts was the homestay, where I really got to learn about the modern day culture in Peru. Another great part of the trip was exploring the Amazon. While there we planted about 70 trees in two different local families. The trees were different fruit trees that once grown, will hopefully give the families another source of food and income. Both families were very welcoming and seemed grateful for our service. The first family offered us fresh grapefruits and coconuts afterwards and the second family (which was only one man) taught us how to use his bow and arrow. Both times, something that stood out to me about the culture was the family dynamic. Once the children get to be about 4 or 5, they live in Puerto Maldonado, the closest town, so that they can attend school. Normally they live with their mother and the father stays behind and works in the Amazon. In the first family we visited the father said that his daughter would be leaving next year, and in the second family, the father’s children had already gone. I also saw things like this on the Uros islands, and even in my homestay, where the father was almost never home since he worked as a tour guide in Machu Picchu. This makes me realize how much I take having both parents around for granted.

The Peru trip taught me many other things and was an unforgettable experience. I hope that I will get to learn about other cultures in the world and further open my mind to new experiences.

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Rachel’s Service Reflection

This spring break, I travelled with Friends to Peru. We began our journey in Juliaca, where we visited a ruin where Incan rulers were buried, located next to a beautiful lake with a romantic mythical backstory. We ventured on to Puno for 2 days, visiting more beautiful and historic sites, such as Lake Titicaca. My favorite part of the trip was our time in Cusco, where we stayed with our host families for 5 nights. We spent time at Saqsaywaman, learning from a humorous tour guide about the VERY tall Incan people, the Moray ruins, which were my personal favorite, took a city tour of Cusco, and spent hours on Machu Picchu. We sat in silence many times throughout the trip, which helped me to appreciate the natural beauty and historical advances of the Inca people. My host family was so fun, and my Spanish comprehension and speaking skills have drastically improved. It was an incredible experience to be able to spend time with such charismatic and caring people. We then travelled to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon, where we spent much time connecting with nature and learning about the amazing ecosystem of the rain forrest. For our service project, we helped farmers by planting 70 trees of various fruits. I loved being able to plant and get a bit dirty while learning about the agriculture of Peru. The farmers genuinely appreciated our work and thanked us with delicious grapefruit and a demonstration on how to shoot a bow and arrow. The trip to Peru was a unique experience, in which I learned about a beautiful country with immense history, immersed myself in the culture, and improved my Spanish speaking skills.

Mach Picchu

Mach Picchu

The Maras salt mines

The Maras salt mines

Boat in the Amazon

Boat in the Amazon

Planting in the Amazon

Planting in the Amazon

In Cusco, before we met our host families

In Cusco, before we met our host families

Julian’s Nepal Reflection

Over spring break I went to Nepal with several other classmates in order to start construction on a school in the rural village of Domalia. It took us two plane rides to get us to Kathmandu and then another one for us to arrive in Dhangadhi, which was the nearest airport to Domalia. The moment we got there the entire town greeted us with music and dances. The first day we participated in a four-hour opening ceremony, broke ground on the school and finally met our home-stay families. We immediately felt accepted in Domalia.

The best part about this trip was working with the community on their new school. I remember that on the first day of work locals had already been at the worksite for hours and had large pits dug up before anyone from Friends Seminary even started to dig. Everyone in the community had the common goal of building this new school to improve the education of future students. Staying with my host families made me want to help build the school even more since I bonded with the students who would be using it. Everyone around the world deserves the ability to learn in a safe and stable environment. This global educational experience was very important to me since I was not only able to learn about a new culture but I actually helped out a community and the future of its education.

 

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Picture of the old school

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Breaking ground on the school site.

 

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My host brother and I.

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Working on the school.

Maghnus’ Reflection on Perú

Hey everybody,

There’s also an interesting article written by my fellow traveller Max Teirstein in the upcoming paper, so I encourage everyone who sees this to read that as well.

Peru was one of the best experiences I’ve had. I’ve travelled to many different countries and lived in five, but I don’t think I had as great a time anywhere as I did in Peru. For the first time during my time at Friends, I’m actually pretty excited to be writing this post.

We did a lot of fun stuff in Peru, but I’m just going to mention some of the most rewarding for me. First, the people on the trip really made it a wonderful experience. Everybody was very open to experiencing new cultures, which made the trip all the more immersive. The trip leaders were intelligent, caring and knowledgeable, and magnified our connections with the place hundredfold. If I took away any lesson from this: surround yourself with amazing people with amazing experiences, and you’ll feel amazing too.

Peru has an awesome culture. Well, for starters, it actually has a culture. Sometimes I feel like the United States (or maybe just NYC), doesn’t have a culture in the sense that everybody has a shared tradition that guides their everyday thought and interaction. Argue that as you will, I definitely noticed an intense difference in the way that culture pervades the life of everyday Peruvians. The Peruvians have an ancient history, spanning back to the massive Incan civilization. I always thought I knew everything I needed to about the Incans, but after witnessing firsthand the mind boggling stone structures that they somehow cut and built by hand, I fostered serious respect for this mysterious and genius archaic people. I don’t think we could handle feats of architecture and masonry like the Incans’ today; the organizational systems required to manage such huge feats of engineering seemed to far exceed those of Fortune 500 companies. One of our tour guides said that the Incans were led by a select breed of leaders that were 7-8 feet tall and had extra bones in their spines to support their genetically larger brains (i.e. they were superhuman), based of scientific evidence. I don’t know if this is true, but I can understand why people think it’s a plausible explanation 😉

However, the biggest learning experience for me was probably living with our host families. In the city, I don’t get outside my “bubble” of people with similar views, opinions and, of course, language as me. However, I pretty much forgot English for a week while I lived my my “mother” Miriam, my “father” Juan, and my two “brothers” Gabriél and Alejandro. I don’t think I’ve ever learnt so much Spanish, and gotten so good at it. 1 week in a homestay = 6 months in Spanish class, plus added benefits of food, housing, and immense cultural immersion. Go do it. I think it was actually the biggest service element of our trip, because, of all the experiences, it made me the most in-sync with and respectful of Peruvian culture. Over cups of quinoa-cocoa, I was able to share hours of my stories with my family, and hear just as many from them. We gave each other new perspectives.

I think trips like these really distinguish four years of textbook-memorization from an education. I’ve always thought education means dramatically changing the way you think about things in ways that you didn’t even think could happen. Learning chemistry or grammar never did that for me. Because really changing the way you think means meeting the people that think that way. And those people exist, but you have to get on a plane to meet them. Peru was two weeks of endless interactions with people who have given me a new perspective on things. Things ranging from the comparative quality of South African and South American chocolate, to the chain-effects of buying a diamond ring and to how I fit into the communal cycle that connects a NYC kid like me to a kid from the most remote, hidden, yet essential pueblo in Peru.

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Nicholas Markus Reflection on Nepal

This is an abbreviated reflection. I have an unabridged version in the form the personal journal which I took on the trip with me. In the void of technology I wrote. I wrote and I wrote. Most of it was about what we did on the trip, some of it was about the people, some of it was deeply personal, and all of it private. But I will try to do this momentous extravaganza of a Spring-Break trip justice.

I suppose for a community service reflection blog I ought to focus on the actual community service element of the whole thing, and less on the hiking and touring (that remains for facebook, but not here). So I will do just that.

The service element of our trip to Nepal was run through an organization called BuildOn (www.buildon.org). If you’re too lazy to click on that link, BuildOn is a charitable organization which specializes in building schools in rural villages all across the globe. Furthermore, the organization seeks to empower young girls by providing them with equal education opportunities as well as providing adult literacy classes for adult women who were not able to learn how to read due to an earlier lack on an education.

Our role in the whole BuildOn process was to go to one such rural villiage, stay with local families, and to participate in the building of the new school. I got to the villiage, met and stayed with my very friendly host family (only one of whom spoke any English!), and over the next 3 days I alternated between manual labor at the work site and learning more about the village and its culture. And that’s about it I suppose.

 

My brevity on the subject of what it is specifically that we did may seem strange, but I assure you my lack of description does not come from a lack of things to write about. Even the day in the live of a normal dude can pave the way for entire epics, Just look at Jame’s Joyce. Rather, I feel like going into the minutia wouldn’t be an effective use of my time. Instead I want to talk about how this amazing trip changed my life forever.

 

It didn’t.

It didn’t change my life forever.

Don’t get me wrong the trip was utterly fantastic and enlightening on so many levels, but I feel like “life-changing” would be such an awful and cliche thing to say about it. Our lives change every single moment, and as repetitive as it seems nothing that happens to us has ever really happened before, it’s all subtly different. In essence, I am changed each day by the mere experience of existing in a day the likes of which has never existed before. Really what people mean when they say “life-changing” is “altering future plans”. People go through life with a vague idea of how subsequent experiences will go (I will go to college in a few years, after that I’ll probably get a job related to programming, after that I’ll die eventually), but sometimes, people are visited by an epiphany. They do something and out of the blue they realize they want to do something else. They found charitable organizations, start a band in their forties, change jobs, change sexuality, change sex, change a college major, or change something else entirely.

I’ll never forget Nepal, I’ll never forget Kathmandu, I’ll never forget Dhangadhi or Domalia, or any one of the places we hikes to (I have my trusty journal for that), but I do not thing my future plans were changed forever. Still, even if my life wasn’t changed, I helped build a school. One day, when it is complete, children will attend that school. They will learn and they will learn and they will learn and one day they will go on to do great things. So no, my future will not be changed by my experiences on this trip, but with a little luck many young people’s lives will be.

 

 

 

(Oh, and here are some photos!)

A photo of my lovely host family, my host family buddy Richard, and myself!

A photo of my lovely host family, my host family buddy Richard, and myself!

The ceremonial place of the "first dig" i.e. where work officially started

The ceremonial place of the “first dig” i.e. where work officially started

One of BuildOn's other successful schools!

One of BuildOn’s other successful schools!

Zara’s Experience in Peru

Over spring break, I participated in the school trip to Peru in partnership with Envoys.  We spent two amazing weeks in Peru, visiting Lima, Juliaca, Puno, Cusco, Machu Picchu, and the Amazon.  I loved being immersed in Peruvian culture, from eating their delicious food to speaking their language.  I also loved staying with my host family, since I got to really see what everyday life was like in Peru and experience living in a household where no one knew English.  While we were in the Amazon, we helped to plant around 75 trees with the locals.  It was crazy hot while we planted, but a great experience to get to hold a sapling and bury it in the ground, knowing that in a few years it will be taller than me and growing mangos or cacao beans or lemons or pomellas or any of the other fruits of the types of trees we planted.  It only took us an hour to plant the first 50 trees, and I thought how amazing it would be if everyone could take an hour out of every day just to plant trees.  Overall, the Peru trip definitely expanded my view of the world by allowing me to experience life in another country, and learn how different it could be.  For example, in my home stay, my mom was surprised to find out that there are a lot of homeless people in New York.  She said that in Cusco, the government provides easy jobs to otherwise homeless people to help them afford shelter (or something close to that; it was in Spanish so I’m not completely sure.)  I had an amazing experience in Peru, and I’m hope the school continues to provide these global trips so other students can have a similar experience.

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DCIM102GOPRO Planting trees in the Amazon.

IMG_0806 At the Moray ruins.IMG_1019 At Machu Picchu.IMG_1130At the Uros Floating Islands.

Kyra’s Experience in Nepal

After our time in Nepal, I was able to truly see what the opportunity for education means to people around the world. While working side by side the villagers, we were able to learn why they wanted to build a new school and offer their children opportunities that they did not have access to. During our homestay, Sophie and I were talking to our host father about the school project. We asked if his six year old nephew was excited for it to be finished and he responded that the whole village was excited, not only the children. It was very inspiring to see so many people working together as a community to bring about something that they think will be give many opportunities for their children and grandchildren.

 

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Lauren, Sinead, me, Jada and our host children at the closing ceremony

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Sinead, me, Lauren and Sophie visiting another Build On school in Nepal.

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Lauren and I on a suspension bridge while hiking

 

My Reflection on Peru

This spring break I was a part of the Spanish language trip to Peru, a joint ventue between Friends Seminary and Envoys. We had a fantastic time exploring many different communities within the country as well as the natural wonders that Peru has to offer. We also learned from and volunteered with members of these local communities to collaborate on mutually beneficial projects such as planting fruit trees that provided shade, income, food, and fresh air. These service experiences were so valuable to both us as a group and the recipients of our work because we did not come to do help with what we thought the recipients would like, we listened to their needs and used our skills and resources to address their needs as best we could. This difference between coming in to satiate our need to feel good about ourselves and feel that we were good people versus the willingness we showed to understand their issues from their point of view and help only in the capacity that they needed and wanted makes all the difference in the world. The service we did truly felt like it was positively impacting the lives of the people we worked with, and it felt like we were truly addressing the problems that the local populations were dealing with. I remember reading an article several years ago about how much of the aid that first world countries were sending to impoverished third world villages was not actually addressing the issues facing the population, and was merely a way for the donators to feel fufilled, meaningful and good about themselves. And having now done sevice alongside locals who were in charge of the work we did, I can say that service in this fashion is far more rewarding then donating items that one thinks are needed in a community where the people recieving the aid are not even known, let alone acquantances that have been met in person. Taking the time to work with the local population to learn about, asses, and then address the problems they are facing is the most rewarding service bar none, both for the recipient and the volunteer.image

Jake’s Nepal Reflection

I have noticed that Americans as a whole feel obligated to “help the world.” This is not a bad thing at all, and I am certainly a member of this philosophy. But so much of that effort is misplaced. People believe that by chucking money at some “Third-world country” they are making things better, which is so untrue. With no concrete product, there is no accountability, so organizations can fiddle away the money and give bonuses to their executives (this is what caused Kony 2012 to fall apart). People not only chuck money at these countries, they chuck used clothes at them as well. This effort is equally as weird, because no one wants smelly used clothes from people overseas (the English tried this with the Native Americans and killed the majority of them off). Luckily, there is a solution. Organizations like Build-On funnel donations in the proper direction (Their website says that 87% of every donation goes to the program, which is quite a high percentage among this type of organization). They also focus on giving hand-up’s not hand-outs. An economy based around tourists sending money is not sustainable. That is why Build On’s model is so successful. The townspeople can say that they built the school along with foreigners, which provides them with what they need (a school) and provides us with what we need (a life changing trip).

 

Trips like this are important because it allows us to prepare for the changing world. The world that we will grow up in will not only force us to have a global perspective, but it will be more focused on working in a global market with a global perspective. Though it is a gigantic cliché, we are a generation of change-makers. That will be the key part about our generation. The more of the world that we are able to see, the better off we are for this changing world. Every person is able to make a difference, and will make a difference (even if only to one person), so the more informed that person is, the better off the world will be.