Many cheers to all this evening –
Our first full day has come to an end and we are now becoming one with the people of Peru. Our first day was one of practice in sensory overload. If we have become sterile of the sights, sounds and smells of home, then our fragility has now been shattered. Our work extended beyond the kitty litter box and now into the everyday movement of our Peruvian kin. The fumes from the motos, taxis and busses. The dust. One of the boys mentioned that the dogs here are like squirrels back home. Well stated. And our trip from the train station here just outside the gates of the Brother’s house to Villa El Salvador was to be the squished sardine-in-a-can image. Taking it all in, though,the end of the day begins to hammer the conscious thought that the bubble we live in at home is small and the world in which we all take part in calls us to be present and mindful.
Morning breakfast was a traditional, simple Peruvian meal of bread brought over from the neighborhood bakery. A spread of butter and jam along with some bananas, clementines and juice got us in the mood to learn more about our time that we were to spend in Lima. Our cleanup groups got on their way and made quick work of the morning crumbs and dishes, which afterwards took us upstairs to our first reflection of the trip.
Brother Casey leads some fabulous reflections, but today first thanking the boys for saying “yes” to the call to be here in Peru. He then asked the group to examine why they were here and what they hoped to gain from the experience. The notion of the action word “Go!” may be our best motivator in the next few days. Moving forward instead of standing still. Moving against the status quo.
Forcing us to put one foot in front of the other, perhaps with others on our shoulders. It was a powerful piece and the boys brought their own words of strength to the group as well.After some discussion, we gathered our walking shoes and made our way out into the streets. The corner of Próceres and Los Jardines is a busy place, one of great hustle and bustle. Our task was to walk a quarter mile or so in each direction and pick out some things that would be necessary to live on a daily basis. Along with the casinos, restaurants, shops, markets and pit stops of any kind, we also had to be careful to dodge the busses, taxis, dogs and people that would whiz on by, occasionally stopping to stare at the especially tall white boys walking the streets of their town. We spent about an hour taking notes and doing our best impressions of urban planners which would then become presentations back at the house. There were many questions about how one would manage the daily life and it was well understood that it would take a radical change in our daily lives to be present in the life here.
A great lunch of pasta was had here at the house to then packing our bags and preparing for the trip south to Villa El Salvador. The newly installed (2 years) train has been a great addition to the city of Lima, helping thousands of people navigate through the city more efficiently. I will attest that this ride was a bit more comfortable than our ride in the city busses from previous years. The cramped, bug eyed feeling was, however, inescapable. We spent the trip standing and hanging on for dear life as the train stopped and started at each station. It took about 15 stations before we made into the town of Villa El Salvador.
We took a walk into town from the train station and had a chat with Brother Steve who spoke to us about the 30 year old town. The farthest province south of Lima was made as a result of the people fleeing the hills east of us in hopes of leaving the terrorism at the time, El Sendero Luminoso or, The Shining Path. These were strong and resilient people who came together and built a city on top of sand to what it is today. Our travels through the market brought a greater understanding of how a majority of the world shops. Refrigeration and preservation of perishable items is not much of a possibility with most people so daily market shopping is a necessity. As senses were filled, the boys were challenged to think about what being born into this environment means and what is means for us back at home. Challenging thoughts but a great perspective.
We met up with Sister Clare who guided us through the rest of our afternoon, walking us through the streets of her town where she has been for the past 25 years after coming over from Ireland. She is a bit of a saint in these parts and along with the help of Aurora, the two have established quite the center of child care, providing local social services for working families. It is a fantastic service which she has established in the community and speaks highly of those to whom she serves. She along with Steve and Pablo, guided us in reflection for the day, pulling us closer to our innate love of and for the poor.
Our trip home was accompanied by some downtime, a briefing on our task for tomorrow which will be to build a house in a day(!). A great hearty dinner was finished with a rousing game of euchre. Michiganders at heart ;). We close the day with our spirits high and ready to tackle the day that awaits us tomorrow. Until then, please continue to pray for us, the poor we meet and our continued openness to this incredible immersive experience.
Live Jesus In Our Hearts…Forever!
PS The following is a brief account from one of the boys and his takeaway of the day:
“Today we went to Villa El Salvador and were really immersed into the culture and the poverty. We went and worked with kids at the child care center and mainly just played soccer and basketball with the little kids. This one boy named Manuel really showed me how even if he was poor in material goods he was extremely rich in spirit.”
Muy Buenas Noches!
If today was day 2 for us it may have felt more like day 12. Our routine has now been established and we have quickly become accustomed to the ebb and flow of our time here. In just a short amount of time we have walked, ridden, eaten and conversed with the people who call this massive city home. Today our work was especially noted in the construction of a new home for doña Victoria and her family. It was a brief conversation the adult team had with the boys before coming down, the idea of building a simple house, but it is not until our hands are dirty and faces sweaty that the feeling of doing something positive and life changing for someone becomes a tangible reality.
The routine of the day begins just as before with a simple breakfast, only earlier today so we could get off to the school and pick up supplies for the day. The half hour ride on the city bus was an experience by itself, especially for our first timers. It was the jam packed train from yesterday only now at street level, with all of the bumps, turns, horns, fumes, dust, people and small seats that are part of the everyday Peruvian movement. The bus stopped long enough for us to scamper off, gather our legs and make the 10 minute walk to school. A pass through the neighborhood pushed us out in front of our Edmund Rice school, Fe y Alegría, No 26. The school is considered by many an oasis. With the idea Lima as mostly a desert, the school itself is surrounded by walls on all four sides with courtyards, fields, tables, benches and quite a bit of vegetation in the middle. It certainly is a gem of the surrounding neighborhood and it is easily understood why there are some many joyous children in class and running around during the school day. Our time at school today was short, however, as we made a quick stop for supplies that we would need in our one-day house construction project.
The Brothers have outgrown the hill immediately behind the school. This happens when over the course of the years they help build somewhere between 90 and 100 homes for families in great need.
As the hill behind the school has more or less been taken care of, it has now become about a 30 minute walk through the bustling streets to find out way to the neighborhood of Fortaleza. One wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between one neighborhood to another but Hermano Pablo and his team have spotted themselves on this particular area now for the time being. An uphill climb, as it seems most everything is here in Peru, brought us to the bottom of the stairs where we waited for our construction guru, Jorge, to join us.
The houses that are built are simple and pre-fabricated. This particular house was approximately 30 feet long by about 10 feet wide. Three rooms which included a kitchen were to be enough for mother, father and three children. 15 panels had to be taken up 65 steps, one by one, under the watchful guidance of Brother Casey, Mr. C and Mr. Seneski. The boys showed great resilience, strength, teamwork and honest sweat as they worked to navigate overhangs, power lines, other houses, people and, of course, dogs to make their way to where the house was to be built. Doña Victoria is a bit of a pack rat and has a hard time parting with items she finds, including the five or so television sets. Her hope is to resell the items for a small profit, however, this goal has yet to be achieved.
With all of the items at the site, the panels were sprayed with preservante which would help keep the termites from destroying the wood in quick time, as it had done to the previously standing house. One by one, our onsite builder, Jorge, directed the panels and their location based on previous survey and plans done by Hermano Pablo, Brother Casey and Jorge. Within two and a half hours, we had the inner and outer walls of the house built and ready for roofing. Once completed, we made a trip back to the school for our lunch. Immersion continues to resonate in many of the moments of the trip, from riding the public transportation to simple lunches of ham and cheese sandwiches, Inca Cola, and chocolate or vanilla biscuits with creme filling (Oreos). Simplicity is daily but what we are slowly understanding is there is often great difficulty and struggle within simplicity.
Our afternoon split us up into two groups. One went back to the house to finish roofing while another group took a tour of the surrounding neighborhood with Hermano Pablo. He was able to pick out the many houses that had been built by the many groups that have come down working within the charism of Edmund Rice. A visit to a few homes and the boys seemed drawn to the children. A playground is a pile of stacked wood. This is an extension of the front of the house that is used for the essential elements of a child’s life – imagination and play. After our boys spent time with the children, we moved on. Pablo took us to Tania’s house where she would normally peel habbas for 7-8 hours a day, six days a week.
Today was a slight change in her schedule as she was at the medical clinic early in the morning so she was not able to pick up her daily basket of beans to peel. Instead, today was about making bracelets. It is a simple, monotonous task but a struggle for some of the guys. Mr. C was able to get a hold of the rhythm and spent a good hour making about 2/3 of a bracelet. This was in small comparison to Tania’s average of a bracelet every 15 minutes or so. She has to be quick since the more she makes the more profit she gets. The bracelets may sell for 1 or 2 soles and she gets a percentage of the sale. Whatever it comes to is minute and hard to fathom that someone would live on the daily wages she and so many people make. Another group was out helping to cut material that would eventually be made into outerware. Again, a lesson in the monotony of tasks that provide very little in terms of wages.
We made out trip back later in the day for a lovely meal at the Brother’s house. Chaufa is a typical meal and best pictured as stir fry. Drizzle a little ají on top and the belly can be content, especially after a long day of construction. We ended our evening with a reflection led by Pablo asking three questions: What was the lasting image of the day? How have the images impacted me? Seeing God “in the now”, where was God present today? Individual, written reflections were followed by small group sharing and eventually large group sharing. We concluded with intentions and ended with a brief explanation of the day tomorrow – painting the house.
Our trip thus far, in just a short amount of time, is guiding us in the realizations that we are blessed to be born in a country with so many opportunities, that we have a path that can be chosen at our own speed. What also is occurring is a softening of the heart for the many people that we are coming in contact with, from the people working at the school to the people we meet on the hill. Every one of them is a glance into the eyes of Christ. Beyond that is the individual’s own moment of quieting the mind and reflecting on the message. We ask for your continued prayers, support and conversation at home about or experience. And we continue to pray for all of you as we get called back and reminded of our own special home.
Viva Jesús en Nuestros Corazones…Por Siempre!
“Today was a very special day for me here in Lima. We started the day by going up a hill to a “house” which was in terrible condition, to the point where I am not sure if you could call it a house. We brought up supplies and boards of wood for building the house and built it. The family whom we built the house for seemed to have no problem living in their home of rubble and junk, but was ecstatic to see their new house being built. I got to speak with the mother’s children Kevin (14), Ruby (10), and Fernanda (2) and was so surprised to see them so happy and worry-free. They constantly make something out of nothing. Later on in the day I found myself in the home of a family who run a family business of producing jackets inside their own home. It was basically a sweatshop. The conditions of the workplace, combined with their hard work ethic and low pay received, made me realize what work really is. This family works as hard as anyone could just to make a few dollars a day. People here in Peru just live to survive and see another day. It has been a very humbling experience so far these past two days and I can’t wait for the next eight.”
– Julian Karim, ’18
Muy Buenas Nochas!
Day 3 was about finishing what we started as we were scheduled to paint the house that we built yesterday in the neighborhood of Fortaleza.
The morning got started just a tad later so everyone was able to catch some much needed sleep after the long day yesterday. We woke to enjoy a simple breakfast together and then out the door by 8:30. We jumped on a bus again for the 20 minute ride which after a couple days is becoming routine for the boys as they become more comfortable with their surroundings and transportation. We arrived at Fey y Alegria to pick up our paint and head up to finish the job. Before we left the school we were introduced to Maria Luz who is a senior at the school. She attended the ACTION Workshop a few years ago in Florida at the age of 13 and Mr. C got to know her at that conference. She speaks very good English and is easy to see that she is a young Peruvian who is excited for the future and has great things in store for her.
We headed up to the house to paint and put the final touches on it before we were done. Violeta, the woman who we were building the house for, picked a beautiful shade of green (think Michigan State green) which I loved. The boys painted over the next couple of hours and did a great job finishing the house. We took a picture with the family and is attached below. You could sense the boys felt a sense of accomplishment as their hard work turned into something transforming for a family in need.
We headed back to the school for some ham and cheese sandwiches and a siesta though many boys continued what has been some very competitive Euchre games. After lunch we split into two groups, one going up to Tania’s house to peel habbas beans and the other group went to Gisela and Elvis’s house to sort cuffs for shirts.
This is from one of our students on the sorting the cuffs:
“Today half of our group went to a woman’s house and worked on an assembly line. It is amazing to think that people can work like that for 9 hours a day 7 days a week just to earn the little amount they earn. Very humbling and eye opening.” – Jimmy Casper ’18
At Tania’s house we saw and felt first hand the struggle of the poor to make very little money. We sat side by side with Tania and peeled habbas beans that is very hard on your fingers and hands. Tania does this 6 days/week and takes her the entire day to peel all the beans. It was a great experience as we sat, laughed and worked together to help make the day a little easier for Tania and to see how hard work has many different faces and that the amount of work done is not at all equal to the pay they receive.
After visiting the two houses, the boys got some time to play soccer on the beatific fields behind the school. Some Peruvian boys joined in and it became very apparent that they play a lot of soccer in Peru. The boys had a great time and was another chance to stand with and bond with the Peruvians.
We headed back on the bus to the house for some reflection on the day followed by a delicious meal of soup and Shepherds Pie which was out of this world. Tomorrow we will get a chance to sightsee in Peru. We will visit some catacombs as well as a chance to see what a higher income area of Lima looks like when we visit Miraflores.
It has been a great trip so far. Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue our journey.
Live, Jesus, in Our Hearts. Forever!
Saludos a todos!
We have finally made our way off the busses today, shifting our way from here at the Brother’s residence and heading west towards the busy city center of Lima. Bus rides and walks through town burned substantial calories and broke in our shoes if they hadn’t been already. Visits to the Church of San Francisco, Norky’s for a chicken lunch, and rides through the more posh districts of Lima really gave us great perspective of the divide between the rich and poor. Miraflores and Barranco are beautiful districts and have a real feeling of home for us. What has continued to resonate with our group, though, and as we heard from Elvis, a jacket maker for whom we folded about 500 sets of cuffs yesterday, the government is quick to turn a blind eye to the poor, which are millions in Lima. Fair wages, appropriate working conditions and dignity for all people are still matters that are pressing and recognizable to the people on the hill here. I hope that this message moves our young men to be ministers in their work, not messiahs, and to recognize that our work this week is for a future not our own.
Our entry this evening comes from our videographer of the trip, Kurt Schneider. He is capturing some great footage and will be putting together a fabulous movie to share with everyone shortly upon our return. We will be headed to the northern most district of Lima tomorrow for 2 days. Jicamarca is an hour bus ride from here and we have some projects to complete, a few fútbol games to play, and a birthday of one of the women there to celebrate. Much of our immersion trip still exists and we are excited. As Jicamarca is a relatively new area, I’m not positive as to how well our cellular and WiFi connections will be while we are there. If you don’t hear from us for a day or two, no worries, we are simply following the Brothers desire to work in the poorer areas of Lima. We will certainly be back in touch when we arrive in Cusco on Sunday.
Until our next communication, much love to all at home.
Live, Jesus, in Our Hearts. Forever!
“This week has been surprising to me in many ways. On the first day I was in awe of the many differences of the Peruvian culture. It took a while to get used to the “unique” way the city smells, but once we established a definite schedule we were comfortably ready to explore and serve. I was deeply touched when we visited the district higher in the hills to build a house for a kind woman named Violeta. We had to clear out all of her things in order for us to begin constructing the house, and this gave us all a glimpse into what life in the poorer mountain districts is like. The ability to so greatly affect Violeta and her family has really touched me beyond explanation, and working many hours with the boys has greatly bonded us together as a group. Everything has gone so well for us and the service we have completed.
Today brought a new contrast to what we have seen so far. We made our way towards the more populated section of Lima to discover that the large financial buildings, restaurants, and high end hotels did indeed exist in the same vicinity that the poorer people lived. After a tour of Basilica of San Francisco, I was amazed to see the preservation of painting and sculptures as well as the skull lined catacombs of the Franciscans. We viewed the changing of the guards at the Presidential Palace and during reflection, the Brothers made us sure to remember how different everything was as we came from the mountains toward the ocean at Miraflores, Larco and Barranco. The most important part of the day for me was the realization that within 15 miles of the million dollar beach homes and 5-star restaurants that go along with them was the poorest of the poor that are avoided by tourists and some government officials as well. This goes to show the importance of our work with the schools and poor in our area. I am so glad to be able to join such a great group of guys on this trip, and am excited for what is to come.”
– Kurt Schneider, ’18
Parents et. al. –
I am happy to report that we have successfully made our way to our final resting point in Peru before heading home. Ollantaytambo is almost a 2 hour ride by van through the Sacred Valley, a ride which twists and turns from one village to another. As today is Father’s Day (Feliz Día a todos los padres!), cuy was the popular menu item on the barbecues. Indeed, while guinea pig may not seem much of a dietary need for us, the little guys are quite the hit here. We did not indulge just yet, perhaps tomorrow, but for now we have made our way into this illustrious Inca city.
In finding our way to the Tika Wasi Hostal, we have moved on from our work in Jicamarca with Jose and his wonderful family. The house which the Brothers use for immersion groups has greatly expanded since last year. This is due in large part to the mission collection that goes on weekly in theology classes. Part of the project our boys will have upon returning is helping the student body recognize and understand where their coins and loose bills go. We are witness to the obvious progress that has been made in the retreat house in Jicamarca. As we wrap up our trip here in Peru, I have asked the boys to give their own perspective on the work they did at our school, the house they built, and the time spent in Jicamarca, so you will not see those details here. Wait for the next update!
We are up early in the morning for a 5am breakfast and catching the 6:10 train to Machu Picchu. The City in the Clouds will no doubt leave us in awe and we are excited to spend the day there.
Please continue to keep us in your prayers, especially safe travels. We have kept you all in our daily intentions and hope that we can all be together and share in this experience upon our return.
Viviendo Jesús en Nuestros Corazones – Por Siempre!
Amigos de Perú –
Our time abroad has now come to an end. Through the pictures, we can see the daily events and various moments that made up our trip. We shared in a unique yet unifying experience that, as members of the Brother Rice community, brought us all closer through the good work and kindness of our nine young men and two teachers. Through expressions of listening, talking and standing shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters, albeit in a different country with a culture and customs different than our own, the message of love and service for others shined brightly over the past few days.
While the pictures capture those moments in time when we hauled wood pallets up 70 steps, played fútbol with the children of the hills, ate meals together, searched our inner self to capture the restlessness that brewed inside, and to marvel at the lasting legacy of a proud and rich culture, what is best described as a true immersion “experience” comes from our young men themselves. I have included the thoughts and final reflections of this year’s group below. Each one has a separate and unique way of finding their own voice through a reflection of their time in Peru. As we quickly assimilate back into our daily tasks back at home, let us continue to pray that we all can turn back to this experience, whether as a direct participant or an avid fan of our group at home, and seek what is most important in our lives and the lives of our brothers and sister abroad, especially those marginalized by poverty and injustice.
Many blessings to all and have a great summer!
Live Jesus in our Hearts, Forever!
This immersion trip to Peru has been the most meaningful and eye opening 10 days of my life. When I decided I wanted to go on this trip to Peru I really had no idea what to expect. I had heard from others who previously went on the trip that it was a great trip but I was not prepared for what I would experience. I learned so many different things from this trip. I experienced first hand what poverty really was. I am now able to understand what true happiness really is. I met some great people who I will remember for the rest of my life. I was also able to see God present in the people and in all that we did in Peru. I think what Brother Stephen Casey said at the beginning of our trip really stuck out as I went through the trip. Brother Casey said that he was glad that we took the call to come to Peru but that it was going to be our decision if we would really immerse ourselves in Peru. I feel that I definitely immersed myself in Peru and got the most out of this trip.
I was able to learn a lot more about poverty and I learned that most of my preconceived notions of poverty were completely wrong. I think when someone mentions the word poverty a few things come to most people’s minds. A main thing is that poor people are lazy and that they could get themselves out of poverty if they worked harder. In Peru I found out that this was very far from the truth. We met a woman Tania who peeled habbas for a living and also knit bracelets. When I tried making the bracelets I was unable to get it right and after peeling the habbas my thumbs were sore for days after. She was only paid a few soles a day for her work. This showed to me that the most of the people living in poverty do work hard but can’t get ahead with unfair wages. This is a problem that is enabled by governments in every country. As Brother Stephen said, governments want people to stay poor so they do the jobs other people don’t want to do.
In Peru I was also able to understand what true happiness is. True happiness has nothing to do with material possessions. In Peru I saw true happiness in the kids having fun playing soccer. They didn’t care about the fact that they were poor, it was all they had known for their life. They were just happy to have the opportunity to play a game they love with people they love. I also met a lot of great and influential people on this trip.
When I arrived in Peru the first people I met were Brother Paul and Brother Stephen. Brother Paul was from Ireland and had been all over the world doing mission work. In these two brothers I saw two people who had dedicated their lives to helping others. It was obvious how well liked they were in Peru. When we walked through the poor hills everyone would say hi to “Hermano Pablo” as the Peruvians called Brother Paul. Brother’s Paul and Stephen both have had a big impact on my life through their service. Many Peruvians also had an impact on me. One kid in Jicamarca, Kevin, in particular impacted me. Kevin is 19 and is a big soccer fan which allowed me to connect with him right away because I am also a big soccer fan. We became friends after talking about soccer for a little bit. Kevin speaks English really well and goes to college in Peru. His ability to speak so well in English really impressed me as most of the people I had encountered could not speak English or at least not very well. While we were in Jicamarca all of us from Brother Rice went to play some street soccer with the kids. Kevin was by far the best player of all of the Peruvians and all of us from the U.S. He was able to do all kinds of cool skill moves and was able to dribble around everyone easily. In Kevin I saw someone who was just like me but had been born into poverty. Despite this, Kevin was setting himself up for success by getting a good education and learning English. The other great thing about this trip was that I was able to get a lot closer with all the guys from Rice.
The last big thing that this trip gave me was that I was able to see God in all the Peruvians and through the work we did. Brother Stephen showed us a song about all people being God workers and God being the master builder. In my helping build a house for a woman named Violeta and her 3 children I felt that we were doing God’s work. Before we built her a new house she was living in horrible conditions with bugs crawling all over and flimsy walls. Although the house was a big improvement they are still going to be living in severe poverty, but I feel that although we might not see how our work will impact their lives later on we still were able to be a part of God’s plan. I also saw God in all the Peruvians, especially the children. All the kids were just so happy to be going to school while many kids in the U.S. think school is boring. They are just happy to go to school and in their innocence I can see God.
In summarizing my experience in Peru I hope everyone can see how impactful this trip is. I strongly encourage all underclassmen to consider taking this immersion trip to Peru. I can guarantee that this will have a very positive impact on their lives. Peru has allowed me to see the world in a much different light and I am now able to better understand all the great advantages I have been given in my life. In Peru I have had ten of the most enjoyable and educating days of my life and I can definitely say that I am grateful I took the call the come to Peru. To conclude this I can use a quote that Brother Stephen found, “If you have come to help the poor, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because you believe your liberation is bound with mine, let us work together.” I have definitely found my liberation through my experience in Peru. – Dominic Bolstrum, ’18
The past eleven days have been absolutely life changing. The work we have done, the people we have met, the things we have seen. I am so grateful to have been able to go on this immersion trip for so many reasons that I will go into detail with. It was truly humbling and I appreciated everything about it.
Seeing the conditions of the hill people in Lima was shocking and appalling at once. The ability to aid and change the lives of Violeta and her family when we built a new house for her was truly a feeling I will never forget. Every time we were able to help the community, I felt as if we became more and more attached to the people of Perú as we did our best to render support through physical service and immersion experiences.
One instance in particular that made me truly appreciate the service we had completed was the birthday party at Jicamarca. We had sanded and painted the downstairs of a house in Jicamarca and had played futbol with the children there, and that night there was a birthday party. As the two groups came together, the Peruvians and the Rice students, there was a bond that made us all feel appreciated and humbled by the chance to be a part of a service project bigger than us. This whole experience was about advocacy, the ability to feel for, help, and stand up for those most in need.
I am extremely grateful for the brothers I had on this trip with me. All of the Rice boys bonded so well, and in the last few days it felt like we all were truly called for this immersion experience. I encourage all Brother Rice students to go on this trip, as it has changed the way I will see the world forever. – Kurt Schneider, ’18
The mission trip to Peru was a moving experience for me. I learned a lot on the mission trip about my life and the lives of the people of Peru. One thing I learned was the culture of Peru. During my time in Peru I grew to appreciate the culture of the people of Peru. There are a lot of aspects of the culture that I thought I wouldn’t like or didn’t understand but over time grew to enjoy.
The most important thing I learned was how lucky I was to be in America. It’s easy to take everything that I have for granted sometimes but when I saw what these people had it made me much more appreciative. I had never seen poverty like this before on as great a scale as it was in Lima. There are people that live their entire lives in this poverty with no chance of pulling themselves out of it. Work in this area of Peru is also hard with many people working sunrise to sunset making almost no money. In America if you are born in poverty you can pull yourself out by working hard but in Peru it is nearly impossible to do.
I was also very thankful for the opportunity to meet the people who live in these communities. One day of the trip one of the Christian Brothers we were staying with took me and a few other students around to meet some of the people of the community. We got to meet Tania and help her peel beans which she does all day everyday making very little pay. We also got to meet Jose and help him make shirts. This work was hard and tedious working in a hot room all day just to make barely enough money to support the family. These experiences gave me new understanding and respect for workers who are exploited for their labor and work very hard and long days while being paid very little. – Cam Brown, ’18
Going to Peru was one of the most eye-opening and inspiring events in my life. By experiencing the Peruvian culture first hand, I gained an inner peace that I have never experienced before. Before going to Peru I was nervous that I would feel scared and out of place. I could not have been more wrong. The people of Peru were some of the friendliest and most caring people that I have ever met. The three main emotions that I have felt throughout the experience were shock, solidarity, and hope. Not only did these emotions make me a more complete person, but they helped me to see God in a way that I would have never expected to come from the poorest of the poor.From the very first day of the trip, the emotion that I constantly felt was shock. On the internet and in books, Lima is depicted as a modern and economically sound city. When we drove to the Christian Brother’s house, I couldn’t help but wonder where these depictions came from. We drove through houses made out of aluminum and cardboard. When we got out of the van, the city smelled like manure. I have to admit, I was very nervous heading into the next ten days. Over the course of the next ten days, my feelings of shock quickly changed. When we went to go play with the poor schoolchildren of Lima, I was not shocked because of the harsh conditions, but from the pure joy that the children displayed. They did not care that they were surrounded by dirt and stray dogs, they only cared about having fun with us and with each other. Another group of kids that we encountered lived at a woman named Tania’s house. She has to peel many pounds of beans each day and make many bracelets just to make a tiny profit. As she helped Mr. C make a bracelet, we played with her kids. I was shocked at their amusement when they played on their homemade jungle gym made out of dirt and stones. As a friend and I finished our lollipops, one boy begged us for the sticks. We gave them to him thinking that he would built a little house out of them or something of that nature. I could not believe it when I later saw him hiding in a corner as he sucked the last bits of sugar off the stick. It helped me to realize just how rare it is for him to receive a treat like this. After the feeling of shock, I immediately felt guilty since treats like this are common and taken for granted in America.
The second emotion that I felt throughout the trip was solidarity. Brother Stephen told us that if we have come simply to do service we are wasting our time. We must come to live in solidarity, or as one, with the people of Peru. This statement shocked me. I couldn’t believe that even though I had carried 100 pound wooden walls for a house up the side of a mountain, I was wasting my time. The next day, I would begin to understand what Brother Stephen meant. This change started after we had destroyed Violeta’s old house and built her new one. I began to paint the front door and noticed Violeta’s little girl standing in the corner of the house. I asked her if she liked the turquoise paint and if she wanted to paint. She smiled and said yes as she started to help me paint. Later on in the day as we were all dirty and tired from painting, I saw the little girl and her brother laughing and getting paint on each other’s faces. Even though they had worked just as hard as us, they continued to find joy in their work. A few days later, we helped Tania peel beans and make bracelets. We also helped a man named Elvis make cheap jackets in a sweat shop. These tasks were tedious and exhausting, but both Tania and Elvis always had a smile on their faces. Even though I constantly messed up on my bracelet, Tania would undo the knots and reteach me while chuckling. In the sweat shop, my one job was to snip a thread in half. Elvis would keep telling me how good of a job I was doing. Later on in the week, we helped a family sand and paint a new level of their house in Jicamarca. We worked hard, side by side, even as thick dust clogged the air. After the work was done, we played soccer, their favorite sport. As we played together, we worked as together to score goals.
This day helped us to live side by side through a day these kids’ lives. We did not simply help them through service, we joined them in solidarity.
The final and most important emotion that I experienced throughout this trip was hope. No matter how bad their situation was, the Peruvians attacked each day with happiness unknown to mankind. This happiness led to a sense of hope that someday things might get better. I think that this hope was most apparent in one of the poorest places that we visited, Jicamarca. Kevin, the oldest child living at the house where we stayed, was learning English. He hoped to one day go to a university and get his future family out of the cycle of poverty. Tania and Elvis work hard hoping that their kids could one day have a great future. This sense of hope is necessary for many of the people of Peru to get get out of the cycle of poverty. Even though this hope exists, the Peruvians require advocates. They need people to speak up for them and give them the voice that they currently do not have. Our group made a plan to help aide this cause. We would make an inspiring video of this trip and present it to our entire school. This could help encourage more Brother Rice students to go on this trip, therefore increasing the amount of aide that we give to Peru. With our help and the help of other groups, we can help Peru become a better place. Even for people that are not able to attend this trip, we can donate money though the school mission collections. The combination of us and the native Peruvians will create change in Peru. Our week and a half in Peru was just the beginning of this change.
The trip to Peru truly was one of the greatest weeks of my life. Becoming one with the culture and people changed my worldview. As an added bonus the trip was also a fun bonding time. The public transportation, such as the trains, buses, and motor taxis, were a special experience. With the crazy drivers and large crowds, every trip was a new adventure. On the second to last day, we got to experience the breathtaking Machu Picchu. The incredible ruins and views from the top of the mountain were something that I will never forget. Other excursions such as the market place and textile farm were amazing as well. I strongly encourage every Brother Rice student to go on this trip. The experience and rush of emotions are unforgettable and life altering. – Ethan Dimock, ’18
The Peru Emersion experience was more impactful than all the pictures from Peru. Peru helped me though the trip was meant for the other way. When we were walking or riding a bus or train in Lima, I saw smiles from people who did not know when their next meal was going to come from. Coming to Peru and meeting different people, I believe poverty can be described as true happiness, and happiness is being content with who you are and where you are. Some people search for happiness through gathering material objects. For those people, happiness leads to greed and under appreciation for what they possess. But, the poor people of Peru owned things needed, not wanted. As well as their smiles, I saw hard working people. People who would sweat for 12 hours for very, very little pay. Those people worked to feed their families, not for their wants. We met a man who helped build the houses for the selected families by the Brothers. His name was Jorge, and the best way to describe him is as a one-man wrecking machine. He has been helping the Brothers build houses for eight years while continuing his trade as carpenter. The first night after building the house we were asked where did we see God that day. For me, I saw God in Jorge for two reasons: he was a carpenter, and Jorge was always smiling while working. He enjoyed building the house even though it was grueling work. After meeting and seeing him work, I started to see what is real happiness. Like I said before, true happiness is being content with where and who you are in life. Jorge was happy with his trade, carpentry, and it seemed that he was not bothered by being in Peru because he was able to help people in his community. He taught me to find a profession where I would be able to smile while doing it to everyday. While I was taught to enjoy the profession I choose by Jorge, the families we met in Peru taught me to limit my wants and understand my needs. Even now, there is not many things I want, but there are a few things I want to own. The poverty in Peru taught me how to find happiness in the objects around me. This lead me to believe poverty is true happiness because the people were happy even though they did not own much. We saw a family of five living in a tiny house, but the children and Mom were always smiling. I saw real happiness in the children’s smiles, smiles of innocence. The Peru Immersion trip gave me lessons I might not ever forget. – Macallan Kizy, ’18
The time I have spent in Peru over the last week or so has been incredible. On this immersion experience I have gained a tremendous amount of perspective. This came from seeing how a majority of the world lives, and encountering numerous positive people, and understanding how well off I am living in America.Prior to this journey to Peru, my definition of poverty was much different than it now. Walking through the streets of Peru the images were striking. Houses built out on sand dunes deemed unsuitable for living by the Peruvian government in Villa El Salvador, food markets that had raw meats covered in flies, and abandoned malnourished dogs littered throughout. While all of these images were shocking, the most disturbing was going to see Violeta and her children Kevin, Ruby, and Fernanda. This was the family that the brothers had picked for us to build a house for. Upon arriving at Violeta’s we found a structure made of disintegrated cardboard, plastic cord, and wood supports. The house was infested with junk and roaches. These conditions were worse than anything I had ever seen before and changed what I viewed as living in poverty. While the condition of living in Peru is poor, the way the people lived showed me a lot about perspective.
All of the people who I encountered on this trip had a positive impact on me as a person. First and foremost, Brother Casey and Brother Paul. Spending the majority of our time with these two men made it clear how much they care about the well being of all and living the mission of Edmund Rice. Brother Stephen encouraged me when my hands were burning from peeling habbas with Tania. Brother Paul challenged me to see the presence Christ in everyday life. Lastly, both Brothers provoked thought every day with our journals and the reflections we did. Secondly, all of the Peruvian people we met. Violeta and her kids, while living in inhumane conditions, showed tremendous gratitude that we’re able to come and help. José and the rest of the families in Los Angeles were very positive and worked alongside of us as we sanded and painted walls. Tania, who lived on top of the hill near Fe y Algeria 26 and peeled seventy kilograms of habbas for a few dollars a day, appreciated the laughs we shared while working with her. While I didn’t mention every person, the group that impacted me the most was the children. I met a 13 year old named at the school near Villa El Salvador named Manny who was fascinated with the American football and had an amazing time playing catch. All of the students at that school were so happy playing with us and really cherished the little things. This idea of enjoying all the small moments is something I plan to work on because I take so much for granted living in the United States. In Los Angeles I met Kevin who was around my age and was miraculous at fútbol. Kevin showed me a lot about dedication and the opportunity for young men in Peru. Kevin had just begun to learn to speak English three months ago and was extremely well spoken. On the other hand, I have taken four years of Spanish and am around the same level as he is. Another example of his dedication was the work he did with his father José. When our group went to go take a short break, Kevin continued to work the entire time. Kevin showed me so much about living in Peru and I gained a lot from him. As well as Kevin, Marco his younger brother who is around 11 years old also showed me about enjoying the little things. Every time I was around Marco whether we were playing fútbol, eating meals, or climbing up hillsides he always had a smile on his face. The people of Peru were gracious, happy, and cherished our presence.
To conclude my immersion in Peru, I looked back on how privileged I am and what I can do to help those in Peru. I feel that so many people would benefit if they had the opportunity to experience something like this. With the Brothers we talked about how service is great, but advocacy is better. I feel the best way for me to advocate for the poor of Peru specially is to tell others about my experience and how they can help also. To me, two concrete way of doing this would be to explain the mission collection in religion class and what specifically the donations are used for and giving a presentation to the entire school about the realities of Peru and what can be done to encourage further participation in this trip in the future. In total, this trip changed my life and I am extremely grateful to all those who helped me experience Peru. – Jack Sielicki, ’18
This trip to Peru has been one that has changed my life in a way I never thought possible. It has given me a new definition of what it means to live in poverty and to serve those who live in poverty. Our group bonded and came together to achieve a goal of charity for those who needed it. The trip also taught me that true happiness is not connected to material possessions, but comes from showing love to our brothers and sisters.Our first 5 days were spent with Christian Brothers Stephen and Paul in Lima. During our time with them, we spent time at a daycare program for kids with two working parents or a single working parent. We played a lot with the kids and it was clear that they were happy to see us. Even though we had some difficulty communicating with them, we were able to play games and put a smile on their faces. Our next project was building a home for a family that needed it desperately. We were able to tear down their previous house very easily because of termite damage. We carried each piece of the wooden house up about 60 steep and uneven steps to where we were to assemble the pieces. Once we completed the task of hauling these heavy and awkward wooden pieces and putting them together, we painted the house. It was a very rewarding experience when we saw the home we had built for a family.
During the second half of our stay with Stephen and Paul, we worked with several families that lived in the same area as the family whose house we built. We experienced what it would be like to live in their shoes. We peeled beans until our thumbs were raw, and worked to put together jackets to be sold on the streets. We experienced their exploitation and saw how hard they worked for very little money. The clothing manufacturing could be described as working in a sweat shop. The experience opened the groups eyes to social injustice and unfair working conditions. Both of these families worked hard every day just to be able to survive, and had little to no chance of being able to take a better job to support their families.
In the last service portion of the trip, we stayed with a family in a city called Jicamarca for two days. We sanded and painted the house and played soccer and cards with the kids in the family. During our time there, we grew close to the kids Kevin, Marco, Anderson, Carlos and Yurik by spending both days with them. At the end of the second day, we had a party to celebrate one of the women in the house’s birthday. The neighbors came and we all danced for hours. Everyone was very happy that we were there, and many of them cried when the left the house or went to sleep on the floor below because they knew we were leaving early the next morning and wouldn’t see them again. We bonded with the family, especially the kids, in a way and depth that I never thought possible in two days and speaking a foreign language. – Bryce Everly, ’18
This immersion experience to Peru has been the greatest time of my life. I have been humbled, made new friends, and have grown to love the country. I decided to go to Peru because I thought it would be a really cool experience and an opportunity to change my life. I was right. I came into the trip not knowing what to expect, and every day has thrown curveballs. The food we eat, the places we stay, the people we meet. None of it is placed in front of us before we go, we just have to immerse ourselves and trust it and be a part of it.
I’ve been humbled while here in Peru, seeing the terrible conditions in which people live. We built a home for a family (Violeta and her kids: Kevin, Ruby, and Fernanda) and the house that they lived in before was very eye opening. They used cardboard walls, shared one bed, and everything was hanging by its last thread. So much garbage all through the “house”. We transformed their life by building them a wooden, 3 room house in which most of the people in the US would find disgusting to live in, even though it is like a mansion to them.
I’ve made many new friends on this trip. I’ve grown closer to the Rice guys I’ve came with. But, most importantly, I made a new friend named Anderson. After Lima, we made our way to Jicamarca – a city in the mountains which is very poor-and we stayed with a family in a 3 story house which the Brothers built. We stayed there for 2 nights with no showers and a lot of soccer. I met the neighbor of this family, Anderson, who is 16 years old and much like me. We connected right away when we met. He speaks decent English but Spanish is his main language and I am the opposite. I speak English but I know decent Spanish. This also helped jumpstart our friendship. We talked about school, girls, and soccer. Then we played soccer for a while and after the game he offered me his club soccer jersey with his name and number on the back. He told me he wanted to give it to me so when I go back home I can always remember him. A token of respect. I couldn’t let him go empty handed so I gave him a Ronaldo jersey I bought a couple days ahead of time. He was very happy about that. We exchanged numbers and social media and we still keep in touch. We made promises to see each other again and both advance our knowledge in English and Spanish, respectively. I love and respect him very much because I see him as a exact reflection of me, just born into poverty in which he had no choice. It’s just a matter of luck. We don’t get to choose where we are born or what family we are born into.
Lastly, Peru has a special place in my heart. I know I will find myself back here one day because this country gave me the best days of my life. Life here is simple, much better to me than the materialistic life in the US. It’s just that we have more opportunities at home. The views I’ve seen and people I’ve met combine to make me love this country and all it has to offer. I will miss the little taxi motos driving recklessly, the smell of Lima, the wonderful meals cooked for me, and much more.
I encourage all the Brother Rice students to apply to go to Peru next year. It is an opportunity of a lifetime that you don’t want to pass up on; you will regret it. You will make new brothers, serve the poor, see tourist attractions such as Machu Picchu, and most importantly, you will have so much fun. Trust me when I say it was the best ten days of my life. I hope all my brothers at Rice get to experience what I experienced. – Julian Karim, ’18
Going into this trip I was very skeptical. I was not sure if I would be cut out for the work and the life style. Looking back I don’t know why I was even worried. This has been the best experience of my life. Starting off in Lima with Brother Steven and Paul, we built a house for a family with three children on a hill. This was the most intense form of poverty I’ve ever seen. There were two beds in one small room for five people. The beds were not only small but extremely dirty, with bugs crawling all over them. After carrying the walls of the house up sixty plus steps I was extremely humbled. To think that the family we built the house for had to walk those steps multiple times everyday just to go out and earn money for the next meal or the next day is extremely eye opening. When the house was complete we went to the other side of Lima, the wealthy side. He differences between the opposite sides were like night and day. After that we went to Jica Marca for two days. Here we painted the house of the Brothers and played with the local children. The children were never seen complaining or not smiling. Playing with them was the most fun I have had in a long time, we played soccer and basketball. Naturally, they beat us in soccer and we beat them in basketball. After those two day we went to visit to sight see Machupicchu and it has been an incredible ten days and I hope I will be blessed enough to do it all over again. – Jimmy Casper, ’18