East Leyden students learn from service trip to Peru

Twenty-six students and four chaperones from East Leyden High School went on a service trip to Peru. The students not only were able to explore Peru, they were able to do service work.

The trip took place from May 28 to June 6.

"For the first two years prior, West Leyden had done a service trip," said Jason Markey, East Leyden's principal and a trip chaperone. "Several of our students came to me and wanted to do a similar trip."

After some research, Markey said the students were able to decide if they wanted to go to the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua or Peru. The students decided on Peru.

"We did sightseeing for the first five days," said Kendall Duwal, who recently graduated. "We went to major cities and Machu Picchu. That was the biggest thing."

For the service trip, Duwal said that they were helping with an organization called Peru's Challenge. Duwal said the group helped build a greenhouse to not only grow food to give to the local communities but to grow flowers. They make a profit from growing the flowers and selling them to hotels.

"A lot of the families don't have a lot of time to grow their own food," Duwal said. "The greenhouse helps feed them year-round. The organization takes the food to downtown Cusco to sell it."

Duwal said participants had to do a lot of manual labor to help build the greenhouse. They had to shovel dirt and transport heavy rocks. This was difficult because they had to carry everything up and down hills.

"It wasn't that hard on us because we were given a lot of breaks," Duwal said. "The next day, we were kind of sore."

Duwal said that the whole experience taught her about community and being grateful for what she has. In Peru, they had to use only bottled water because they can grow ill from drinking tap water. However, she encourages others who want to do a service project to Peru to keep an open mind. She said she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

"Even though they know we have so much more than them, they were appreciative we were there," Duwal said. "They did these rituals for celebrations by putting confetti in our hair and wrapping us in ribbons. That's how much they appreciated us being there."

Maryann Pisano is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

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