Reflecting on service in Peru

Sean Oates

This fall I return to Malvern with new perspectives and relationships following my Christian Service trip.

This past summer, Malvern’s rising senior class found themselves all over the globe as they embarked on their Christian Service trips, along with Malvern faculty and alumni chaperones.

The senior Christian Service trips are always advertised by alumni as one of their best memories from their time at Malvern, and personally I agree wholeheartedly. Beginning over spring break with a trip to Costa Rica, and finally ending with the August trip to Ireland, the Class of 2018 had the opportunity to experience worlds previously unknown to them throughout the summer.

Groups of students traveled to Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Peru, New Orleans, South Africa, Fiji, and Ireland. I had the opportunity to travel to Peru with 14 of my peers, where we spent ten days in the small city of Chulucanas.

Going into the trip our group was excited, but not sure exactly what to expect. None of us really knew too much about Peru or how we would be helping the people there. We also were unsure how the people of Peru would react to seeing our group in their community.

We arrived in the city after a tough 20 hours of travel, but were immediately met with extreme kindness from the people of Chulucanas. Everywhere we went in town we were constantly being greeted in Spanish, the native language there. Our worries of how the Peruvians would respond to us quickly went away, and was replaced by a desire to build new relationships with them.

“We all feel like celebrities here because the students love to take photos and selfies with us,” senior Phil Kramer posted in a blog post on the Peru trip Facebook page.

A challenging, yet rewarding aspect of the whole trip was having to carry dialogue in Spanish with the people there. Our entire group agreed that from the first day to the last, out Spanish skills increased tremendously. Some of our group members who had never even taken Spanish class were having conversations with the natives by the end of the trip.

Something many juniors are interested in when signing up for their service trip location is whether the work will be social or manual. In Peru, we had an even balance of the two. We spent a lot of hours helping teach English classes for students of all ages. We would teach young children and teenagers at a school called Santisima Cruz as well as students older than ourselves at a local university.

Other social work we participated in was spending time with the children of a local orphanage. We brought with us from the United States puzzles, coloring books, and played games like UNO and duck duck goose. It was amazing to spend time with these children and see how happy they could be playing with us, especially considering the poor conditions and poverty they were living in.

As for the other half of the time we spent working, we were doing manual chores like scraping and sanding down damaged walls then repainting them. We did this at various locations, including a church, a schoolroom, and the same orphanage mentioned earlier.

While we were happy to be working and helping the people of Chulucanas, we spent a lot of time experiencing the culture of the foreign land we were in. Peru, like most South American countries, is crazy about soccer, or “futbol.” Over the course of the trip, we played probably ten games of soccer against locals or ourselves. Every schoolyard, playground, or small town outside of the city we visited had a goal or goal posts set up, and we learned quickly that the people of Peru are very skilled—and very competitive.

Other things we did when we weren’t working were taking tours of the city of Chulucanas and neighboring towns, experiencing things like the fast paced bustle of the town market (where we all bought soccer jerseys for hardly anything). We also hiked to the top of large hills and found amazing views of the city and agricultural land surrounding us, as well as spending a morning at a local river where we could swim and hang out.

On top of all these great experiences we had scheduled for us, our group bonded just as much in our free time where we were staying and during the nightly reflections held as a group. Because of how much time we spent with each other and the fact that we didn’t have reception for our phones to distract us, we were able to really bond in a way I don’t think we would’ve had it not been for our service trip. I think I can speak for all of my brothers on the trip in saying that.

“We created relationships with each other and the people here that we will remember forever. Everyone here accepted the call to service, and we all realized that service is not a one way street,” senior Stephen Salle wrote in a blog post.

While this is only my personal reflection on my trip to Peru, I have heard similar responses from seniors who went to different locations. While the work done at each location may have been different, each group of students has seemed to leave with a much closer relationship with each other, as well as a new perspective of the world and those who live in poverty. Looking back at what older students told me about how great an experience their service trips were, I can see now that they were not exaggerating.