Every summer since 2010, a team of our students embark on a truly life-changing service immersion experience working with the poor in Lima, Peru. Students live in the spirit of Blessed Edmund Rice while ministering to the children of our school Fe Y Alegria #26, to local families, and an orphanage. One of the highlights of the trip is the process of tearing down and rebuilding a house for a family in need.
Unfortunately, the trip was not possible this year due to the pandemic — a time when the need is greater than ever. Covid-19 hit Peru very hard with many deaths, lockdowns, and few jobs, resulting in a heightened struggle for many families.
Thanks to modern technology, our Warriors were still able to remotely minister to the people of this area in a very meaningful way. While not the same as hands-on work, scheduled Zoom calls actually widened student engagement from a small group to the entire school, bringing hope and a home for a family in need. Students raised funds through the sale of t-shirts and a generous donation from the Alex Thoresen Foundation, allowing Brother Stephen Casey and his team in Peru to construct the home. These funds ultimately supported seven families, the one who received the house and six others that were provided a wage to help build it. The mission was eye-opening for our young Warriors, as they experienced how the precious people in this area of our world live and how we can make a difference for those marginalized by poverty and injustice.
The virtual immersion experience took place March 17-18. Zoom meetings between our classrooms and Brother Casey were informative and interactive. Students were able to learn and see how different life is in Lima. Brother Casey showed the area and homes spread across the foothills of the Andes mountains and explained how families struggle every day just to put food on the table. There is no running water. There has been no school for the students in the valley since December 2019 due to the pandemic. They work hard simply to survive — a significant contrast to life here in the United States.
Several Zoom meetings were held during the home construction process. We were introduced to the work crew, who were young men between the ages of 16-22 — who were so thankful to be able to earn a wage to help support their own families. Many were even sporting Warrior gear gifted to them from previous mission trips! A question and answer exchange with students and the crew was enjoyable and enlightening.
We also heard from the grateful Bolaños Saavedra family who received the new home. They had been living within walls that were made of pressed cardboard with dirt floors. The new home is made of pressed wood, with metal roofing and cement flooring. They chose a cheerful salmon color for the exterior. They joyfully expressed heartfelt gratitude, saying, “Thank you to God, and thank you to Brother Rice High School for supporting our family.”
While our students may not have been on the ground building, the experience gave them a new awareness of how we make a great difference for people when we open up our hearts.
To experience the virtual immersion, click through the Zoom call videos below: