Peru Mission Trip 2016 Blog

Posted: June 24, 2016

Peru 2016 Day 2 Photo 4

As the end of another year has come and gone, I am once again happy and blessed to accompany 10 of our young men to our Christian Brother site in Lima, Peru. This is my 4th trip and I’m thrilled to be joined this year with James Higdon. The two of us will be working alongside, observing and leading our boys as they grow deeper in their understanding of “standing in solidarity with those marginalized by poverty and injustice” (Essential Element #3).

Peru 2016 loaded up

This years group includes:Camden Boston (10), Jon Crowe (10), Alex Denha (10), Jack Kelly (11), Tristan Klein (11), Matthew LeMire (10), Daniel Reaume (11), Jack Reinhart (11), Alessandro Roma (10), Adam Sellers (11)

We have met as a group a few times in the past few weeks and they are all bringing different talents and gifts, ready to share with the people of Peru. Our hope is that, for a few days, we can enter into the lives of people who live on the margins of poverty with a clearer understanding this is the way of life for a majority of the world.

We leave early Sunday morning and return Wednesday, July 22. We ask that you pray for us and the success of our immersion experience.

Vive Jesús en Nuestros Corazones..Por Siempre!

Andrew Ciesielski


Peru 2016 Day 1 photo 2

Buenas Noches!

It is with great enthusiasm and joy to message all and say we have made our way to Casa Hendricken! This is the Christian Brothers home/community in one of the many provinces of Lima. We had a long day of traveling, leaving Detroit Metro at 7am and making our way into Miami by 10am. After a 5 hour layover of lunch, tutorials of euchre for those new to Michigan, knowing Miami International like the back of our hand, and setting up the Twitter hashtag #BRPeru2016 (wink wink 😉 we boarded for the journey to Lima. Lima is an hour behind, so meeting up with Brother Casey was around 9:00 local time. We took about a half hour bus ride from the north end of town to where the Brothers currently reside. It always fun to listen to the comments of the first bus ride and hear the surprise of our boys and the many people on the streets, bad driving, dogs roaming, and the all together newness of this world we have entered.

Peru 2016 Day 1 photo 1

As we drove, Brother Casey spoke about the city’s history and how it came to be in a relatively short time, especially since the early 2000s when many people came down from the mountains and began their lives anew in the city adding to what is now around 10 million people in Lima. Once we made our way to Casa Hendricken, a yummy cake and some refreshments were provided by Brother Casey and Brother Pablo. Pablo is an Irish Christian Brother who has been in Lima now for many years and knows the area well. He gave us a run down of the day tomorrow which, in short, sounds like a lot of steps. Pablo did mention he left this particular house for the Michigan group so we’re excited and eager to meet Maria Elena and her family whose house we will rebuild tomorrow, all within in a day it sounds like.

The boys have made their way to bed and the house along with the neighborhood of Las Flores has fallen quiet yet again. Tomorrow is a new day and will be one with many great elements. We are eager to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, serving the poor such as Edmund Rice did those many years ago in Ireland. We take inspiration from these wonderful models and look forward to working along side Brothers Casey and Pablo and listening to the stories of the families on the hill.

Until tomorrow
Live Jesus in Our Hearts…Forever!

Mr. Ciesielski

Day 2

Peru 2016 Day 2 photo 1 (2)Peru 2016 Day 1 photo 2Peru 2016 Day 2 Photo 2
How does one quantify an honest day’s work? How do they know they have made a positive and holistic change in the life of someone, or increased the wellbeing and lifestyle of a family? I would guess if the chance ever presented itself, one might be willing to take the opportunity and run with it. This call to service is exactly what 10 of our boys did today, along with myself and Mr. Higdon. If our task as adults and as Brother Rice as a community is to create, mold and inspire more complete men, then I would say today was a success in that venture. Through the work we accomplished in six hours in a neighborhood named “Bayovar”, I would be wrong in saying that our first full day in Peru did not have an impact on the spirit of these boys.

Peru 2016 Day 2 Photo 3

Peru 2016 Day 2 Photo 5

It was a good night sleep, having arrived at the Brothers residence at a decent hour last night after a long day of travel. The boys were up and ready for 7 o’clock breakfast which consisted of a simple meal of bread, butter, jam and some beverages. Brother Pablo gave us a recap of the day and before long, we crammed ourselves onto a city bus to take a half hour ride to Fe y Alegria #26. School was already in session when we arrived, so after the collection of the ladder, we made our 25 minute walking trip through the streets, past the sounds, smells and odd looks from everyday Peruvians to the base camp at the bottom of the hill. It is the top of the hill, of course, where we hauled 14 walls of the house, teams of two, wall by wall. I hate to sound dramatic but Brother Steve mentioned a number of times about Maria Elena and her house touching the sky. I’m quite sure we were darn close. The current count of steps traversed today ranges somewhere between 300-400. The sun decided to make an appearance today as well, this being the second straight day of sun after about a month of mist and cloud cover. Applications of sun screen were aplenty as the sun here can be quite ferocious should one decide to skip the recommended SPF50 for a few hours.

By the time we needed to walk back down the stairs and back to the school, it was 1 o’clock and we had made good headway on the house. All the pieces made it to the top with about half of the exterior of the house being built. Our carpenter on sight is Jorge and he is a man of many talents. His sense of ingenuity, and it is certainly needed with uneven dirt floors, wood that can be warped, and working on a steep incline that had been flattened out previously, is key for the 30 plus houses that he has put together with the help of Edmund Rice schools like ours.

Peru 2016 Day 2 Photo 7Peru 2016 Day 2 Photo 6

A lunch at Fe y Alegria, some down time, a quick conversation with the school children was all the boys needed to reenergize themselves to go back to an afternoon of work. Half the group made their way to the house again. Their work completed the exterior and laid the roof beams. Again, it is a wonderful feeling to see a floor of dirt in the morning to be surrounded by walls of strong wood in the afternoon, much different than the previous house of cardboard and plywood.

Another group spent the afternoon at a house peeling habas beans. These are fava beans that are the main source of income for a family. Two hours were spent shucking these beans, in hopes of giving the family a few more soles for the day. It is tough work peeling habas, with sore thumbs and fingers as one must squeeze and peel. For every one that our boys did, the family, including young children of about eight years old were able to get through as many as five at a time. Money is essential, no matter how poor one is, as the quicker they can make their way through their primary source of income, the better.

6 o’clock sounded and with the afternoon bell came a flood of all the elementary school students, finished with the day and ready to play a game of keep away and basketball with out boys. It was good fun and the boys definitely gave the eight and under Peru version of Steph Curry a run for his money, not to say the roles weren’t reversed at times!

Peru 2016 Day 2 Photo 8Peru 2016 Day 2 Photo 9

We boarded the city bus for the half hour trip back home. These are full buses and can be an overload on the senses. As we rode a full bus, it was completely normal for the busses around us to be loaded as well, most times with people standing. There are so many different, visual experiences to have here in Lima and today was full of wonderful things. Our arrival back at the Brother’s community meant a dinner of soup, shepherds pie with a delicious sauce to accompany. With our bellies full, we took a few minutes of down time before heading upstairs for our first evening reflection, led tonight by Brother Pablo.

We closed the evening with a written reflection led by Brother Pablo. The three points of focus were 1) what were some feelings you had as you went through the day? What experiences had an impact on your conscious, soul or self. 2) What were some images that stuck in your head, as if your eyes worked as a camera, taking pictures throughout the day? 3) How did you see the image or face of God today? After writing, our boys came back to the group and shared some deep, moving experiences. Someone asked the self reflective question, “How am I going to change for my family, especially in their time of need?” In reflecting on the language barrier, one spoke about the “smile of a child can have far deeper meaning than talking”. Many of the boys spoke on the origin of happiness, trying to identify where it comes from and what is required for happiness. Many drew comparisons to our society, especially our youth and the desire for material possession as a source for happiness. We are beginning to see and hear different definitions and images of poverty, and those definitions are beginning to evolve to our experience, if only after one day. I challenge you back home to challenge our boys and ask them when they return of what their new definition of poverty is and how it took a different shape during this trip. In regards to poverty, one student spoke about poverty as community. A wonderful take on the issue and how he saw it on the hill. Another student commented on the interactions of the people and how much we impact their lives through our work but also how much of an impact they have on our lives.

Can you believe it, all of this coming after one day? The work the Brothers do here on an annual basis has the power, ability and opportunity to generate these feelings, to radically redefine and invigorate a level of compassion, love and understanding for others, not just here in Peru, but hopefully with a greater desire to seek out this understanding in other parts of the world. Starting at home, yes, that the boys may become more willing to serve those most in need, but also with the desire to travel and see the world in which they participate.

There are many new adventures ahead for tomorrow and, just like today, we are eager to walk hand in hand with those who have already blessed us with so much on this trip.

Blessings to all ~

Live Jesus In Our Hearts…Forever!

Sr. Ciesielski

Day 3

Peru 2016 Day 3 Photo 1

Day three and we have now established a routine. The wake in the morning today took a touch longer than yesterday. Understandably so, however, as we had quite a days work under our pillows from yesterday. We ventured our way downstairs for another simple breakfast of local bread, butter, some coffee and juice, a light break after and then packing up for the day. Brother Casey had us start a morning reflection, asking the boys what is it about their lives that they need to be here on immersion this week. This reflection comes on the heels of what they see, hear, their conversations with the people on the hill and the images that stick in their minds. No doubt, many opportunities exist in the day here to ponder and reflect on the need for change, perhaps to do away with putting oneself first but instead stripping away those things which bind us to individualism and instead a freedom to live closer to earth, closer to people and closer to God.

Our morning bus ride through the city brings familiar scenes now. The local business, signs and posters focus us on a reminder of simple details of daily life here. The traffic is another part which presents a sense of awe to us, as red lights seem more of a suggestion than stopping and the right of way goes to the busses, cars and taxis instead of pedestrians.  We are immersing, indeed, in a different world.

Peru 2016 Day 3 Photo 2

Our arrival at Fe y Alegria, the school run by the Brothers, was again in full session by the time we walked through the front doors. A quick check of items and roles for the morning made sure we were set to finish the house for Maria Elena by lunchtime. Again, the 25 minute walk from school to the top of the hill keeps everyday life in perspective. My FitBit tells me we walked more than 15,000 steps today. Not bad! We were right around the same number yesterday, somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 steps I would safely say.

We made it to the house and already saw Jorge, our builder on site, making quick work of the the roof with the “calaminas” or the sheet metal roofing that was being screwed down. We had a few boys moving the calaminas from the ground to the roof in a good relay for Jorge to move from right to left of the house, providing some new shade from the intense sun. Another group of boys spent the morning painting the exterior of the house. “Lila” is a good color and will be easily seen from the bottom of the hill. Maria Elena explained to me that lilac was the color she chose as she equated it to a “miracle” that was being accomplished in our time there. Her prayers to el Señor de los Milagros, of the Lord of Miracles, had been finally answered and we were the answer to her prayers. Miracles are real. Maria Elena reminded us. It is here where we are provided the opportunity and experience, on day two of our trip, to be the miracle for someone else. After a photo opportunity with Maria Elena, her family and Jorge, we left the house for the last time, feeling proud and accomplished of the good work we had done in just a day and a half.

Lunch was well needed in the afternoon, as the sun came out shortly after we made our way to the house. Intense sun and a good sweat left us drained for some ham and cheese sandwiches, Inka Cola, mandarines, bananas and a few Oreos. We took full advantage of a 45 minute siesta after lunch, with a few boys playing volleyball across from some of the students, while a few took a rest to recharge before the afternoon.

Peru 2016 Day 3 Photo 4

Our afternoon was similar to yesterday’s. The group split up into teams of three. One team split between Tania’s house and Rosa’s house to peel habas. Another group stayed at the school and worked with a gym class on the new turf fields behind the school. They then made their way to the local market for a brief tour before returning to the school and its newly installed turf soccer fields for an intense and rather uneven match between the elementary school Peruvian students and our boys. Peru ended up winning. By quite a bit, too.

For the group who spent time with Tania and Rosa peeling habas, the daily life of these women came more into focus. Their houses were each built by previous Christian Brother groups and we could see similarities between the house we had just built and this house where we were working. This house was one of the 80 the Christian Brothers had helped construct over the past 10 years now. I was way under my estimate yesterday of 30 houses. For the past 15 years, six days a week, 60 hours a week, these women have been peeling habas for around four U.S. dollars a day. Our two hours today left us with sore thumbs and fingers, feeling like we got too close to the skin when we cut and maintain our nails. Indeed, there have been easier emails than this on my fingers.

Peru 2016 Day 3 Photo 5

We said goodbye for the final time to the school after the thumping by the Peruvian 10U team. The return trip was a welcome, as a shower and meal were in order. We have been sticking to strictly three meals a day as we continue to try and stand in solidarity with those marginalized by poverty and injustice. Snacks and breaks don’t seem to be the norm here, and rather than bringing the locals into our lives or separating ourselves from their lives for a few minutes, while seemingly harmless, takes away from the authenticity of the immersion experience.

Our dinner this evening was a wonderful plate of freshly prepared squash soup. A dip of bread was a perfect segue into the main meal of chicken, rice and potatoes. We did our team jobs of cleaning up after dinner with full bellies to move into the evening reflection.

Peru 2016 Day 3 Photo 3

As a continuation of last night, this evenings reflection got the boys to continue to go deeper into their hearts and to continue to ask questions of themselves and their role. Some talked about entering into the lives of others and that no matter how rich or poor, the love an understanding of another can be a two way street. Others are feeling a movement or restlessness within themselves to want to return home to make a difference. That difference is still underdetermined but we’re thankful that the flame has at least been lit to light the way forward. A few boys worked off each other on the comment of our mission collections they do in their theology classes. Compared to the other Christian Brother schools we rank somewhere in the middle, but to the schools of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, we fare more towards the end. These boys commented that the mission collection became so much more tangible here. They could see what they were donating to and could take their teachers comments and put their words to living and breathing situations and scenarios. A few committed themselves to going home and making the mission collection more of a priority for themselves, their peers and the entire school. One group met a lady who was suffering from cataracts and would most certainly go blind from the disease. After reflection on their own home situation, they questioned why money had to be the dividing factor between a sick person and a service that should help people. Finally, one spoke about his experience asking through a market. Brother Steve made the point in saying that these markets were to be seen not just in Peru but throughout the entire world. This was the experience that more than half the people, more than three billion people, would experience on a daily basis. It is not about planning ahead for the next day’s meal, it is walking through the market for the next meal of the day and then doing the same the next day.

These moments of reflection through real, immersive experiences are working into the hearts of these young men. Lima, in just a short amount of time, is showing these boys that they have the ability to show compassion for others. It is often counter cultural to show compassion, especially amongst teenage boys, but it is completely impossible to lack compassion, sympathy and love while being here. Through our evening reflections so far, we are building that recognition that we are fortunate to be where we are, that we have the capacity to be connected elsewhere, and that our world is so much bigger but we have such an important role to play within it. May that prayer of love and willingness to encounter Christ grow stronger as our days go on.

We thank you for your prayers and we are including you in our evening prayers as well.

Live Jesus In Our Hearts…Por Siempre!

Sr. Ciesielski

Day 4

Peru 2016 Day 4 Photo 1

“I went to the woods (desert/Peru) because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

– Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

In only a matter of a few days, our mission of living along side the poor of Lima, Peru has taken on great significance for all of us. It has focused our attention to the needs of those most in need. It has brought us closer to an understanding of the great blessings we have in our lives at home. Most importantly, it has helped us realize that God has a great call for us to be with Him. We are in Peru because we want to be here. In a few weeks, we will have Lorenzo Spagnuolo, a student at Brother Rice, come down for a second time on his own because he wants to be here. The streets, people, energy and zest for life can do that with so much influence that it changes the direction of someone’s life, perhaps for a lifetime.

Peru 2016 Day 4 Photo 2

Today was an experience in extremes. The first part of the day was a long bus ride to the very southernmost part of Lima, to the relatively new community of Villa El Salvador. The city was formed in the early 70’s as a response to the Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, who went through the hills to the east killing large numbers of people living there. The people fled west towards the coast, overtaking the sand dunes and building their community. Since then, they have organized themselves quite well to build residential housing, markets, schools and clinics for their community. After the hour bus ride, we walked the house where a number of North American and Irish Sisters live. We met Sister Clare, Sister Myra and another Sister who had just arrived from Philadelphia. They welcomed us whole heartedly and made us feel very welcome. We left the house with Sister Clare to begin a tour of the city. This experience was a touching moment of authentic poverty as we saw shanty houses, all sand except for a small city park that was beginning to see just a touch of green, and a mix of garbage and dog dropping strewn about. Sister Clare has lived in Villa El Salvador for at least 20 years and we got the feeling she was a bit of a living Saint walking amongst the people. Many were quick to say “hola” and offer their greetings. She was quick to fire back and explain who we were and where we came from. The reaction was all smiles from the townspeople.

Peru 2016 Day 4 Photo 3

As we made our way through the city, our first stop was at a local orphanage, Comunidad Cenáculo, which operates as place for abandoned children. Their youngest were a pair of twins at one month old while the oldest was a three year old. All of these children were left somewhere, either at the doorsteps of the orphanage, a the local police station or in a garbage pile. This congregation spread throughout the world offers a place for these children to go and eventually adopted to a family. The missionaries and sisters that work here do a fantastic job providing for the young infants. We were able to take a quick tour of the orphanage and learn a bit of history of the place as well as more about Villa El Salvador. Unfortunately because of the stronger than usual mist today, we were unable to sit outside and play with the children for fear that they might catch a cold.

From the orphanage we made our way to the local clinic in town. We left a hearty amount of items donated by our families and the social workers at the clinic were more than grateful for what we were able to provide. One worker later explained to us that their work can be tiresome. In the midst of their acknowledged poverty, the clinic operates to provide health services for infants, adults and seniors. They work in the charism of St. Martin de Porres who is very well known in Peru and he is who the clinic is named after. St. Martin de Porres was also a medic who cured them, but it was God that healed them. In the midst of their poverty, it was things like our donations that gave them motivation to go on and move forward, as everything in the clinic was donated by people like us. We had a talk in the clinic where we heard about the mission of the clinic and were offered the invitation to come back, as their doors are always open for willing people to serve their community.

Peru 2016 Day 4 Photo 4

After the time spent at the clinic, we made our way to a children’s center. It was there where we met up with a group of college students from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Creighton is private, Jesuit run university of around 4,000 undergraduate students. These 15 to 20 or so students were here taking courses in Spanish, theology and sociology for college credit, tying their work from academia to their experience in Peru. Our boys got to eat lunch with them and ask questions in regards to their time in Peru and life back home. These students were on week five of six and had lived a good amount of time serving others much like we were doing but on a shorter basis. I hope our boys took the time to ask questions, as I now believe a few of them are beginning to ask themselves what they can do to serve others abroad. We said our goodbyes to the students after lunch and jumped into the den of waiting children, eager to pounce our boys for some fun and games.

Peru 2016 Day 4 Photo 5

After about a half an hour the boys were more than willing to come to the other side of the gates and move upstairs for a talk and reflection. We had a chance to meet with Aurora, who is the unofficial person in charge behind Sister Clare. Aurora spoke elegantly about her work and the service that the children center provides. She was also most thankful for the donation we provided. She was quick to point out that our last donation provided the center with a new bathroom and window panels. Things that are trivial to us and our lifestyles back home, but for this lady, at this center in this city, it made all the difference.

I began with talking about extremes as we spent the morning in Villa El Salvador. From there it was a bus ride to the Centro Cívico, a more urban, fast paced environment filled with people. If the streets were not full of people then the busses were instead. We made a stop at a local mall for chance to wander and grab some food. Surprisingly Papa Johns has a home here and a few faculty members on the trip, one in particular, made a venture for cultural comparisons, while another stopped at the Burger King for a chicken tender sandwich. No doubt, to go from one place in Lima to seemingly the exact opposite did have its challenges and continued our reflection on the trip as a whole. From the mall, it was a walk through the city to the water park. Lima has done a beautiful job of putting together grandiose water fountains and a fabulous light and laser show with its water fountains. it is quite an attraction and great to see. After a little romp through the other fountains and we made our way back on the bus, two this time, to head back home. It was a later dinner at the Brother’s house of Chifa, or the Peruvian version of Chinese stir fry. it was very good and our boys ended the day with full stomachs.

Peru 2016 Day 4 Photo 7Peru 2016 Day 4 Photo 7 (2)

All in all, it was a positive day. When we started our reflections, some of the boys were immediately taken and were already having strong feelings. For others, it was taking some time to wrap their head around all that they were seeing. I think that after today, the experience is becoming more real. Our time is valuable here wherever we go and people are so grateful to have us. We return that graciousness with a hug and kiss on the cheek, commonplace here in Peru.

Peru 2016 Day 4 Photo 6

Tomorrow we head north of city to a new community called Jicamarca. It is only about seven years old and is very much in the developmental process. We will spend two nights there helping the community where we can in its expansion. I won’t be able to get to any wifi while we are there so my next entry won’t be until Saturday. I will have much to write about but I’ve been told we will be up around 2am Sunday morning for a flight to Cusco. I will do my best. God bless all of you and thank you for your prayers on our boys and the success of this trip.

Live Jesus In Our Hearts, Forever!


Days 5-8

Peru 2016 Day 5_8 Photo 5

Dear All –

We have come to the end of service here in Peru and have safely made it to Cusco. From there we traveled to an Inca outpost named Ollantaytambo. They boys finished their reflections last night and I include them here for you to read. They have been witness to the wonders of people in the world and have been inspired by smiles, kindness, humility, patience and brotherhood. I pray that they return to their world while keeping that spirit alive. I pray that they may be agents of change, challenging not so much poverty itself but more the system that creates it. Thank you parents for allowing your sons to be with us this week. They have been great and will be coming home with many stories to tell.

Thank you all for your continued prayers!
Live Jesus In Our Hearts…Forever!


While only being with the immersion group a short time, I have to say
it is a privilege to see them unite as a group here in Lima. They are
outstanding ambassadors for our school and our fine examples of
essential element #3, which is to stand in solidarity with those
marginalized by poverty and injustice.

The group dynamic is very positive and upbeat, and all of the credit
needs to go to Mr. Ciesielski and Mr. Higdon for preparing the boys
before they began the trip. For you parents, you should be extremely
proud of how these boys are representing themselves.   They are
getting out of their comfort zone and being moved by the experience of
the trip.

Finally, these young men are to be commended on how well they have
done in their role as pilgrims on this mission trip. Today as they
toured some of the religious sites in Lima, they were engaged and
inquisitive, which was great to see. Listening to their stories from
the past few days made it easy to ascertain that they have gotten a
lot out of the trip by giving of themselves and serving others.
– Dan McCarville, Teacher

Peru 2016 Day 5_8 Photo 1
Hello it’s Alessandro Roma, last two days we have been in a district of Lima called Jicamarca, apron arrival we met a man named Jose, jose is a man who brother rice in the past had helped take part in constructing his house. And also we met Luis, we worked these two days on removing rock from a mountain side to lay the base land for Luis’ home, over the days we went on to meet the people that live in and around the area of the homes. Anderson- great fun kid around our age, loved soccer and his girlfriend. Kevin- university kid, insane soccer player, decent English but spoke clear and we talked a bunch in Spanish  after playing cards. Diego- funny kid of the group, (we’re now Facebook friends), talked about soccer and played soccer and basketball with him. Carlos- slept over after playing cards and had tons of laughs to share, made tons of fun of Diego. Those were the kids I talked to the most, conversing in Spanish was just a blast and getting to know these kids and play some futbol with them was an amazing experience. When Kevin arrived on the second day we hiked up into the Andes, nowhere in sight as a destination but it was truly breathtaking, also showed us that it’s not about the final destination it’s about the climb to get there and what happens on the way that makes something unbelievable. Later on that night we witnessed Peru loose a game to Colombia in penaltys after a 0-0 deadlock, it was so much fun talking about the sport I love with new found friends even through the language barrier. first night we had a birthday party for Magoli, insane night, dancing, eating snacks, talking, telling jokes, and overall immersing in the Peruvian lifestyle. These nights along with the entire trip is something that I will surely never forget and I really hope I can have the opportunity to run into Diego, Anderson, Kevin, or Carlos once again. (sorry some is out of time order but whatever..)

Peru has been something else
– Alessandro Roma, 2018

Peru 2016 Day 5_8 Photo 2
I really don’t know how to put my experience here in Peru into words. The whole trip is just impossible to describe. Instead of summarizing the last couple of days, I believe there is more value in giving one certain experience in great depth. When in Jicamarca, it was a Peruvian lady’s birthday. Her name was Magoli. After dinner on the first day in Jicamarca we began to prepare for a little fiesta for Magoli. The venue of this party was the second floor of a brick house. It was a pretty small space. We had a table, chairs, a stereo, and some snacks to celebrate. In other words, there wasn’t much setting up to do. We moved the table to the middle of the room and laid out some snacks. When the set up was done, we just hung out for about half an hour as Magoli’s friends from around the village arrived. There were probably about 25 people at the fiesta including the 12 people on the mission trip with me. It was a comfortable fit. When everyone arrived, we gathered around the table in the center of the room turned out the lights and sang Magoli happy birthday in English and Spanish. The smile on that woman’s face was priceless. She looked like the happiest person on earth. It’s hard to describe in words the way her happiness made the other guys and me feel, but it was so special. You had to be there to feel it. After the song, we had some snacks and talked a little bit. I met so many new people even though there was a bit of a language barrier. Everyone had a story to tell which was valuable for me to hear. I put a face to the people I have been helping out at school with donations in Theology class. Afterwards, the dancing began. We got to dance with the Peruvian people to Spanish and English songs. That was one of the most fun moments of my life. We were dancing to have fun and for no other reason. Everyone was as comfortable there as they would be with their own family which shows just how close we all got with the Peruvian People. They were our family. They told us at the end of the night that we are always welcome and their house is our house, and they meant it. I would have no problem showing up at their door and asking for a place to stay. That is how comfortable I felt. What I am trying to convey is that the people and experiences I had in Peru were life changing. I found some of the happiest and friendliest people that I have ever met and, I would not trade my experience for anything. They are a second family to me. Whoever is reading this may find what I am saying cheesy, but I mean what I say. You have to be there to understand which I invite anyone reading to do eventually. It has been one of the best experiences of my life.

-Tristan Klein, 2017

These last couple days in Peru have been some of the best, most impactful, and most meaningful days in this trip and in my life; yes, sleeping on a thin cot on a concrete ground, going to the bathroom in an outhouse, shoveling the earth, and moving giant wood panels made up some of the best days I have experienced in my lifetime. Our main goal in Jicamarca was to dig out and move sand from the side of the hill to flatten out land in order for a family to build there. Before we did this, however, we had to take down about half of the existing house. This undertaking took about 20 minutes, keeping in mind that half of their house was about the size of the average american’s family room and the material was made of simple, thin, plywood slabs covered with a tin roof that was less than a half inch tall. The man we were clearing the land for, Luis, requested that we keep the walls and roof intact so he could donate the material to a friend in need further up the hill, however Luis is in the same position as his friend financially. I learned this within the first hour of our time in Jicamarca and was automatically touched. Luis could have sold the walls and made some money for himself, but he donated the house. He was not donating some surplus money of his, for he was as impoverished as any other man in those hills. This hit deep right off the bat, and the lessons I would learn during these two days just kept coming.

While up in the hills we had a birthday party for Luis’s wife. Needless to say, it was not extravagant. I never would have expected a great party to be comprised of cake and a stereo alone, but I was happily proven wrong. Nothing compares to the pure joy felt by all that night. We danced, laughed, talked, and just enjoyed ourselves. The next night, the neighbors and us students gathered in plastic chairs and stools on a concrete floor and huddled around a computer monitor to watch the Peru soccer game. The screen could have been 70 inches long and it wouldn’t have changed the fun and excitement of this night. It was at this time I remembered a lesson I learned and reflected on earlier in the week. A few days before in the hills of Canto Grande (also an impoverished area) we were working and talking with all of the children there. They were all so happy and joyful in the face of dire hardships. The point my peers and I came to is that material objects and wealth don’t bring happiness. They are not even factors of it. True and pure happiness comes from within one’s heart, attitude, and outlook on life and is coupled by those surrounding him or her. This lesson stood out to me so much and I thought it very opportunistic to be able to share it with you guys.

Thank you and God Bless.

– Alex Denha, Class of 2018

Peru 2016 Day 5_8 Photo 4

The time and experiences I’ve had in Peru are something that will have an impact on my life forever. In my eyes it is hard to sit down and write about these last few days. They have truly changed my life and isn’t something I can write, more so something you need to experience. This place and the people in it are something very special. The way that they look at life and the way they live it should be a model for all. Upon our arrival in Jicamarca we got off the bus to a much poorer way of life. We were in the community of Los Angles, Jicamarca. A small community built upon the foothills of the Andes Mountains. This community was closer than any I have other seen. There way of life was very simple. Houses made of as little as cardboard, very little water, and  just about no electricity. A place that made me realize how great full for everything I have in my life. Most may look at this place as an obsolete piece of land. And truly that is how I saw it upon my arrival. But through the two days we were there I learned it is so much more than that. It is a placed filled with a strong community, neighbors and friends that you can count on know matter how big or small the task. A community strong in there faith, knowing that with God in your life you will find joy. Lastly, with so little they find so much happiness. It always crossed my mind how with so little in there life how can these people be happy? I learned that happiness doesn’t come from things like how much money you have, how big your house is, or even where you live.  It comes from the relationship you have with God, your family, and your community. As simple as it sounds, it’s true. If you are strong in those three aspects of your life, you will live a happy life. If I can take one thing away from Jicamarca it’s this; experencing those three things has made me realize what is important in my life and what isn’t. What I need to work on in my life to live a better life. A more simpler and pure life. This trip is one that has truly changed my life, one I can never forget. I love this place and the people and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for everything they have taught me.

-Daniel Reaume, Class of 2017

Hello all. Instead of listing the events that happened during my last couple of days, I want to tell everyone about the lessons I have learned. I figured I would do this because my classmates have probably covered most of the details about our journey. The first lesson I have learned from the past couple of days is that we are all the same, children of God. With interacting with the Jicamarca community Thursday and Friday, I realized this great lesson. Although they might not speak the same language as us or have the same life as us, these people are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. Because I can speak a little Spanish, I was fortunate enough to have a couple conversations with them. It was almost scary how similar our conversations were to the conversations I have at home with my best friends. Here these people are thousands of miles away and they are still dabbing and listening to Justin Bieber. God has truly made us all the same.
Another lesson I learned during the last couple of days was that when a group stands on each other’s backs with God centered around them, they can conquer all. The Jicamarca community lived in legit shacks. These people’s biggest priority in life was EATING. Yet, these were the most joyful and happy people I have ever seen. It amazes me how grateful to God they are when they have absolutely nothing. Seeing the Jicamarca people stand together and create such a great community really showed me the power of God. Another way this lesson was evident was when we visited the Church of Senor de Los Milagros. It was about 5:00 pm on a Saturday when we walked into the church. There was a mass going on so we had to be very quite. The first thing that caught my eye was a sign that said “Capacidad de 330 Personas.” It was almost hysterical to see this sign because what church has a capacity sign???? If you find one in Bloomfield Hills/Birmingham MI, please let me know. The sign displayed the great love of God that so many of the Peruvians have. I always wondered why these people were so happy when to me, their life sucked. Again, when a community is centered around each other and God, amazing things can happen.
The last lesson I want to leave with you guys is the power of family. So often we take for granted our loved ones. For example, lately I have frankly been horrible to my family. It is hard for me to realize this because of how “right” I always am, but these last days in Lima made it very clear how bad I am to my family. The Jicamarca families were bonded like no other. I mean they had to be to survive. In one instance, a 15 year old named Anderson told his mother to stop sweeping, give him the broom, and relax on the couch. The day that I say that to my mom, something is seriously wrong. Before we got to the airport to start our Immersion, I was in a carpool heading to the airport at 4:30 am. I know I am going to embarrass him, but the way Jack Kelly talked to his mom in the car was a slap to the face. Again, it was 4:30 am, and Jack treated his mom with the utmost respect. This event also made me realize how poorly I treat my family. So, I would like to say I love you to Karen, Jerry, Anna, Dane, and Will. I miss you guys so much and can’t wait to see you soon.

-Jack Reinhart,  Class of 2016

Our first day in Jicamarca we went straight to work. We began by breaking down half of the casita that would be replaced. Then, we dug into the mountain in order to make space for the house to be built this year. Jose and Louis, whom we stayed with, pushed sand and stone off the top of the wall, and we shoveled it from the ground. It was very hard work. It’s crazy to imagine that it will take a year for them to finish digging out the mountain. The families were very nice and joined us in all our activities.

When the work was done for the day, we made our way down to the neighborhood basketball court/soccer field. Our friendsAnderson and Diego and other Peruvian kids played us in a game of Soccer. I was impressed at how good they were. Even though they live in an underdeveloped community, Peruvian kids seem to be just as happy as any American. They are a very close community and are very open to one another. We celebrated the birthday of Magoli, Louis’ wife, and many of the neighboring families came to join the fun. This experience in Jicamarca was life changing and I’m so lucky to have met these people.

– Jonathan Crowe ’18

Thursday started off with a bus ride to Jicamarca, the third city we have visited on our journey here in Peru. We all chipped in, carrying loads of food and supplies up the mountain to where we stayed Thursday night and Friday night. The walk up the hill with weight on our back made us realize what these people do every single day. We arrived to the beautiful brick house and began work, first breaking down the old wooden house that was once the home of the people we were building a new one for. While the locals chipped away at the side of the mountain, we removed the rocks down below. It takes these people years to break away enough rock in order to have flat land to live on, and I was glad to help them in every way I could. I felt like God was calling me to help them, and to open my eyes and realize that I have literally everything because of my parents, I love you Mom and Dad. The amount of dust that went into our system was almost overpowering, but we pushed through it. Hours later we got relief that we were done with working, and could go play futbol until dark. It was an honor to have the opportunity to play with these kids, and see what they do every day for fun, play soccer as we might call it. After dark we had an amazing fiesta, for the mom who was receiving a new home, thanks to our donations. We are family to these people, and I’m glad to be part of their family.

Friday started off with a chicken sneaking into the house and walking all over some of the guys, what an amazing thing to be writing about. After breakfast it was back to work, taking down more of the mountain and breathing in the same rocky dust. God once again reminded me of not only how lucky I am, but also how lucky this family was to have our help. Hours passed and it was the moment I wanted to hear, we were done with the rock work for the trip. The next thing we did was take a truly breathtaking hike up the Andes Mountains, only to find out that the clouds were going to block our view of the city. That did not bother me because it was about the experience and enjoying it with the people I love the most, my brother. We slowly made our way down the mountain in small groups, and talked about our last couple of days here. After lunch it was made known to us that we have to move a house that was no longer in use. The dread of carrying heavy boards up a very iffy staircase was risky business, but I should not complain. God told me that these people need our help, and I am to provide it to them. We finished the job and had some amazing dinner, chicken and rice while enjoying the Peru vs. Columbia soccer game. These people do really love soccer. After the game we did a presentation of the money we had to donate to the family, and they started crying in happiness, very heart touching. I realized that I am here in order for me to build a better future for the family, and myself.

– Matthew Lemire ‘18

Each day here in Peru seems to be better than the last. Our most eventful day I would say was Thursday. Thursday was the day we arrived at our two day destination of Jicamarca where we would truly be immersed, working and living alongside the locals in the mountain. After meeting the families we would be staying with we began the work by tearing down the house which was in need of replacement. Once this was done, the difficult job began, digging put the side of a mountain to create a flat piece of land for a new house to be built. Of all the work we have done this whole trip, watching the locals carve out the side of a mountain just to be able to build a place called home was the most amazing. This task is very difficult and time consuming while the reward was only a 15×15 foot house. Standing there watching these people do this difficult task put me in awe. Watching these struggles that these people have to  go through just to have a roof over there head, on top of having to find a way to pay for that roof absolutely makes you count your blessings. But in this raw reality these people live in, away from the temptations of our everyday lives, there is another lesson to be learned. This lesson is simplicity. These lives seem much more difficult and some might use the word “worse” to describe the lives of these people who live in poverty, yet, this could not be further from the truth. Down here in Peru, I have seen a  true real happiness in which I have never seen before. This happiness wasn’t found in any material item or in anything that can be bought. This happiness was found solely in being with one another, with the ones you love. After work we had the opportunity to play soccer with the children of the village. Manyof us were not very good at soccer in comparison but that didn’t matter, we had one of the most memorable times playing with with these kids who come from a completely different world than us while also having a language barrier. They made sure we were never left out and always kept the game fun. This was true of the whole community in everything we did. Later that nightwe celebrated a birthday of the mother of the house we were building, Magoli. This event was easily one of the greatest highlights of the whole trip as 20+ members of their extended family and community joined us in a night full of dance, laughter, games and real happiness. Taking a chance to look up at the people around me and one of the most memorable nights of my life thus far, I saw God right then and there in the smile of every single person in attendance. These people only have each other and their happiness was more real than any I had seen before. This gift of happiness in true simplicity was something I will carry with  me for the rest of my life and for that, I am forever grateful for this experience in Peru and these people that came  with it.

– Jack Kelly ‘17

Dear reader, there are many things that I could describe. I could describe the things we have done. I cam describe the things I have seen. I can even describe the scents I have smelled. I will start off by describing the feelings and thoughts I have had over the past few days. Instead of telling and explaining what we have done I’ll describe some things you may not have read yet. The place we went to was something that of nothing I have ever experienced before. I cant even imagine living the way these Peruvian people live. I have tried hard reflecting and thinking, and immersing into a Peruvian lifestyle but the thought of my plane ticket home still was in the back of my head withholding my true immersion.

My favorite way to try to immerse myself in a life of a person in Peru is to create a new memory and try to imagine myself growing up in Peru. Think of when you were younger. I think about swimming in pools in the summer, playing football in my basement, playing with my brother on our xbox, eating ice cream and running through our sprinklers in our front lawn. Now forget everything you know. In Jicamarca, the place where we went to Thursday, there are no swimming pools to swim in, no basements to enjoy, no video games to waste time with,, no ice cream because of the lack of a freezer and limited electricity, and absolutely no grass play on or water to waste. All I see is sand. I take my boots off and I pour out sand. We are covered in dirt. I smell like dirt. My nose is filled with dirt. Ask your son what he saw when he blew his nose into a napkin. Ill just tell you that it wasn’t too pleasing. I felt like I was in a barren foreign land. Now that is what I felt when I wasn’t talking to anyone and just looking around.

When I talked to the people I felt completely different. The people of Peru are nothing like the people in the US. The Peruvian people are so kind and hospitable. The people make me feel like I am home. They don’t care about money, what clothes you wear, who you hang out with, what you say, they just care about you. They make you feel like you are the only person they care about. It was quite refreshing to see someone not care about what we usually care about. They were living such simple lives yet they lived a life that some would say is more complex than any of ours. They didn’t become attached to phones, electronics, materialism, consumerism, or anything like that. They cared more about talking to people face to face and creating wonderful, lasting relationships. The people here are truly special. They have taught me things that I hopefully will never forget. The experience I have had has changed how I think about many things.

I have built quite a few relationships with the kids of Peru and they will never end. It was interesting to speak to the kids because of the language barrier. Somehow the barrier brought us closer. We had many laughs at things we didn’t understand. The little Spanish I knew did come in handy however. I felt like that even though we lived completely different lives we were all the same. We obviously didn’t live in the same circumstances but we all loved to joke around and talk about stuff that high school boys like to talk about. I would’ve thought that because we lived in completely different ways of life with different atmospheres, cultures, and customs that we would possibly act and talk about much different things. Strangely we didn’t. We talked about things that we both could understand and many things that we could both laugh at. All I can say is that I will never stop learning from this experience and I am very thankful I was given this opportunity to find something that I cannot find at home.

–Adam Sellers ‘17

On this journey I have been able to experience so much more then would just be on the brochure. We have been able to look at the entire world through a completely different lens. To know what it is like to live in a world where you are stuck in an endless cycle of poverty, with no chance of ever climbing out. In Jicamarca, we were able to view an even clearer picture of this poverty. We worked on a project to build a new brick house for a family who was both deserving and in need. This would continue through the next five groups as well as our own. The site of our work was the next door neighbor of a family that a similar job was performed for last year. In both works, Brother Rice was the kick off of the house. It was incredible to see how the contributions of so many different groups, all working for the same goal could come together to create such an amazing product, that truly set the family so far forward. To have a home made of brick is the absolute epiphany of a dream for Peruvians in need, and with last year’s mission from our school made this all possible. This realization truly inspired me as I put in my work for the chosen family, it made me realize that even though it only appeared that we were shoveling dirt, what we were doing symbolized so much more for the family. We were the ones who would make the first step into the recognition of their dreams. Although we will not be able to see the culmination of the efforts of all the groups, we are the ones who planted the seeds which will grow and blossom into so much for these people, we are the groundwork and foundation for this year-long project that will seem like a miracle for this family.

Once we were able to view our work from this perspective, it invigorated me, as if I had just been injected with a shot of adrenaline whenever we got to work. Every time I got tired, every time I wanted to rest, I just thought back to this and was able to take pride in my work. It was as if every shovelful, every bead of sweat, every moan of exhaustion was like a separate individual gift for the people we were there for. We were also able to meet on a personal level with the people whom this gift was for. We were able to see the joy we brought them, and the new life we were giving them. We laughed with them and played with them as if there were no boundaries between us. We were the same, equals. Such a happenstance has never happened in my life, and I believe I could only have found it on this trip. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity and will bring this new mindset I have gained here through the rest of my life!

– Camden Boston ‘18

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