In June of 2016, fourteen of us embarked on our trip to Peru. It was my first time down to South America and it was also my first Service Learning Tour. With so many firsts, I was a little nervous about the trip. Even though I was an experienced group leader, I didn't know what to exactly expect, but the trip was one of the most memorable trips I have taken with students. A lot of the pictures from this page were taken by our Spanish teacher and photographer extraordinaire, Salome Palomino. She was a great chaperone; check out more of her pictures at photosbysalome.com
"I got to see and try things that I never thought I would have been able to experience. The time our group spent together brought us all so close. We learned so much about the country of Peru itself as well as what it is like to be part of another culture. It was really eye opening for me because it was my first time out of the country, and it made me realize that I want to do a lot more international travel to see the world. This trip will influence me for the rest of my life.
-- Daniel is currently studying at Augustana College in Illinois.
"Going on an EF trip was by far one of the best decisions I've ever made. It was so much fun and opened my eyes to other cultures. Being able to engage with people from around the world and seeing the history I learned about was amazing. The experiences I had on my EF trip were life absolutely life changing."
-- Eva is currently studying architecture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
"Peru was magnificent. The sights were absolutely incredible and the culture was beyond fascinating. I loved working with so many new people, seeing things I had only ever dreamed about, and spending 8 days strengthening and creating long-lasting friendships."
-- Kaylee is currently a senior at Escondido Charter High School.
One of the best experiences of the trip was the service learning component. We got to go to a small village and work with the women of the Awanaki, an indigenous Peruvian tribe. These women make a lot of their money from weaving, but as of right now, they weave in their individual homes. They are building a weaving collective, where they will be able to create a space to work, give tours and have a shop. We helped lay concrete for the bathroom and another room. We also helped build up the walls, learning how to do some brick laying. It was awesome because when we were doing the bricklaying we were actually using the foundation of an Inca ruin - talk about history coming alive! Another unique component of the service learning was when we had a home - cooked meal with the locals. Our students got to visit one of the women's houses and help with food preparation.
After a couple days at work, we finished our time with a weaving demonstration from the Awanaki. We learned how they dyed the colors. It was fun for some of the students to try it out the weaving. Hands on learning is so great for students, and I think from the various projects we learned a lot about the Peruvian women and their Peruvian culture.
One of biggest attractions for my students was seeing Machu Picchu. EF did a great job explaining the importance of hydration before the trip and especially before Machu Picchu, because the elevation is about 8,000 feet. A lot of travelers do the hike, which lasts about 4 days, but with the short time frame, we took a train to a bus that dropped us off at the entrance. After a guided tour we had some free time to explore. Some of my students convinced me and the Spanish teacher that it would be a great idea to hike to Heaven's Gate. It was quite a trek there and we definitely felt the high altitude. I had my fitbit on and had to take a couple of breaks when my heartrate was going crazy. I don't think I had ever sweated that much, but the view was well worth it. In the second picture you can see our view of Machu Picchu - it was so small! Incredible hike, but make sure you know what you are getting yourself into.
Reflections are something I had never experienced on an EF trip and found out they are something unique to Service Learning Tours. Our reflections were at a set time when our director led discussions about what they experienced during the day.
We would do this informally on our trips in the past, but it was great to have a set time that was built into the day. A lot of students told me how they learned a lot from each other during this time. It was also a valuable opportunity for students to lead discussions, like the seniors did in the picture below. It is something I would like to add to my non - service learning tours.