RSIS Peru 2016: Service Trip a Rewarding Experience

Gift exchange with the local kindergarten children

Over the course of my Senior School years, I have been involved in numerous Round Square related activities. In grade 9, I was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend six weeks in South Africa on exchange. The following year, I attended an eight-day conference in Los Angeles, which turned out to be equally as memorable. I was, therefore, very excited when I decided to go solo on a three-week service project to Peru this summer.

One heavy bag, two stressed parents and a cancelled flight later, I miraculously ended up in Cusco on July 11. There, I spent the first two weeks with 18 other students who had travelled from all the edges of the world. Along with the two adult leaders, Andy and Nina, we formed team “Llama”.

The two first days were planned primarily for us to acclimatize to the high Cusco altitudes (3,400m) as well as get to know one another. This was accomplished by taking part in creative activities. First, we travelled to a place called Apulaya Music where we spent the entire afternoon learning about Andean art and music. I was taught two new ways to draw: Kaninpacha and Ukupacha, which give life to inanimate objects. As well, I added another instrument (along with the French horn!) to my list of skills by mastering the Andean panpipes, something we all played at the end of the day for our final celebration.

Second, my group and I successfully completed a Via Ferrata, a form of intense rock climbing that has become quite popular in South America. This adventure required us to climb up a 400m ladder that was both vertical and horizontal. Once at the top, we took six zip lines back to the bottom, something I had never done before!

After these orientation days, we were eager to get to work and headed to a town called Kaninchimpa to begin our project. During these eight days, we were split into three local families. My host parent’s names were David and Ophelia. They had a daughter named Olga and a niece named Vanessa. They also had (get ready for this!) a dog, two cats, five cows, five chickens, a dozen lambs, three pigs, two oxen and 60 guinea pigs! Everyday, we’d wake up, feed the guinea pigs, and then walk up to the work site where we’d spend the entire day. Our goal was to build a school on top of the site since the school the children are going to now is extremely far away from their village. To build the school, we first made a solid foundation by digging and filling the holes with rocks and mud. To then build the walls, we had to make bricks (which took four to five days to dry!). This was one of the best parts of my trip as we were given welly boots and had to walk around making mud for hours. This may seem like an easy job (I sure thought it would be at first) but I can assure you it is difficult as the mud is thick and hard to pop in and out of. In fact, one day, my boot got stuck and I ended up walking right into the mud with nothing but my sock! By the end of our trip, we had built half of the school, something we were all very proud of.

Kaninchimpa was certainly my favourite part of the trip. The bond I made with my host family was truly special. Although communicating with them was quite difficult, we tried our best to interact and play with them. I would always help them with dinner, ask them for different words in Quecha and even taught them multiple card games like Uno and Spoons, which became our daily activity. As well, I realized during my stay, that this type of experience was something I knew that I wouldn’t have the chance to do again. That being said, I tried to be adventurous and take advantage of every opportunity and new thing that came my way. For example, despite my small stature, I was always offering to do mud mixing, wheel barrowing and brick carrying. Also, I tried lots of new food (even guinea pig!).

After having worked for eight days straight, we all got to reward ourselves by visiting the one and only Machu Picchu! Team Llama was out in the bus line at 4 am, however, we only started our tour at the site at 7 am. Once the tour was over, I was allowed to spend the entire day (a whole 12 hours on the site) doing whatever I wished. Although I really liked the Inca Bridge and the Sun-gate, simply being there was amazing.

So that is what I did for the first part of my trip with team Llama. The group left on the 25th and, on the 27th, my new team, team Condor, arrived in Cusco. I was with this team for half of their journey as a student leader intern. Now, you may be wondering: what exactly is a student leader intern? I, with three other students that had been with me in team Llama, redid the trip with team Condor. This time, however, we were in charge of running it.

Being a leader is scary enough but I was even more nervous to be a leader in PERU! Nonetheless, the student leaders had an entire day to prepare with our new leaders, Andrea and Freddy. Had it not been for their expert advice and confidence in us, we would not have been able to have done such a good job.

Leading team Condor taught me numerous things about myself. First of all, I was rather nervous about the prospect of leading students my age. My experience was limited to being a CIT for a bunch of 3-6 year olds last summer. Having to lead a group of people my age seemed more difficult, as I wanted them to respect me but at the same time, like me! Also, going into the trip, I did not think I’d make the same bonds with team Condor that I did with team Llama. Needless to say, I was so wrong! I connected with everyone on team Condor just as much. As well, they all felt comfortable enough to come to me for advice and questions, which I really liked.

Secondly, I am considered to be extremely organized. This was both my biggest strength and weakness going into the trip. Let me explain: sometimes, I like to plan out my entire day to the minute. This means that I do not like change. Being adaptable was therefore a strength I wanted to develop. On my day to lead, as usual, things did not go as planned. Two teammates had to go back to Cusco and some people did not have proper equipment. Handling these problems and making changes to the schedule without freaking out was a skill I definitely learned that day.

Lastly, since I had already experienced the trip before, I was considered an expert and, because of this, I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. I was, once again, wrong. With team Condor, I continued to learn and experience more and more things. I did this by asking lots of questions. For example, I learned that some houses in Cusco have two bull statues on their roofs, which stand for protection. Also, at Kaninchimpa, we organized a soccer game with all the local children. That night, we played for hours with the sunset in the background, an image I will not be forgetting anytime soon.

In conclusion, the RSIS 2016 Peru trip has been, like my other Round Square experiences, absolutely incredible. Even though team Llama was great, I thought that my time as a student leader intern was the most memorable and helpful. As I go into my final year at LCC as Round Square Head, I have lots of new ideas and leadership skills that I will most definitely be using because of what I have learned in Peru. I cannot wait for the year to start! – Abby Shine ’17

Middle School Students Spend Time at the Lasalle Boys and Girls Club

2015_16_MS_CommServ_LaSalle_BoysGirls_020Le samedi 7 mai, six étudiants de LCC sont allés au Club Garçons et Filles de LaSalle afin
d’organiser des jeux et des activités avec les enfants du quartier. Les étudiants ont organisé des jeux amusants ainsi que des activités sportives et artistiques. Les enfants se sont beaucoup amusés (nous aussi!) et ils ont bien apprécié notre présence. Ce fût une expérience enrichissante de pouvoir donner notre temps pour la communauté.

The students who organized and participated in this event had a great time and loved spending time with the kids. Just like last year, we all a great and fun experience. We hope to go back next year and spend more time with the kids.

Merci beaucoup,
Andrew Fata ’19

Photo Gallery

The Reward of Service

2015_2016_DoEGoldTrip_BuildHouses_Mar2016As part of the Duke of Ed Gold Trip to Colombia we had the opportunity to build houses for two families in need. Before arriving at our destination, we had no idea what to expect. We were told that we were going to a very poor area near Bogotá and would even require military escort to bring us there. When we finally arrived, this could not have been further form the truth. Instead of the rundown and dangerous area that we imagined, we discovered simple, sparse homes in the country with beautiful views and great weather.

During the building and painting of the houses, one of the relatives of the families that we were helping invited us into their home for a delicious lunch of sancocho, a Colombian stew. We soon learned that whatever wealth they lacked was made up for with kindness, pride, and happiness.

When we finally finished the houses we received big “thank yous” and even saw some of the members break into tears of gratitude and joy for all that we had done. At the end of the day we felt truly humbled. We saw first hand the impact that an act of charity could bring to others, and we all felt very grateful that we were given the opportunity to do the work and make the difference that we had made. If the opportunity presented itself again, I know that we all would have built the houses a thousand times over.
–Louis de Gaspé Beaubien ’16

Colombian Graffiti Tour

DSC_0806_350_250To be fully honest, I expected the graffiti tour to be a waste of time. We were all exhausted from the long flight and were anxious to get to bed. Fortunately, the graffiti tour was a huge surprise! I found myself completely invested in this two-hour tour. We explored the streets of Bogotá and got a good feel of the city we were staying in. The streets were packed with people staring at us and giving weird looks. We didn’t pay attention to this though, as the street art we were seeing was incredible.

We saw many gorgeous pieces of art painted on the deteriorating walls of Bogotá. One specific painting of a lion really struck me. This was the kind of art you would see in a museum. We saw a huge variety of street art, but the ones that really struck me were smaller, more political pieces. One artist drew many small, metaphorical images all over Bogotá. A soldier being used as a puppet and an assault rifle with a rose emerging from it were some of the many drawings that this artist brilliantly created. I was blown away by the entire tour. The things I learned and the art I witnessed really surprised me in nearly every way. I, as well as the rest of the group, could proudly say that we have a newfound appreciation for graffiti. Our trip to Columbia is already off to a spectacular start!

– Evan Luxenberg ’16

Building Houses in Colombia

2015_2016_DoE_GoldTrip_Colombia_009Today we got the awesome opportunity to build houses for two homeless families. We met up with five students from a local English school and travelled a few hours out into the mountains to meet with people from a foundation called Catalina Muñoz. This foundation’s goal is to build houses for impoverished homeless families.

One of the most striking things about the whole experience was the drive from our hostel out into the mountains. First of all, the urban sprawl of Bogotá is incredible. The city seemingly goes on forever! And if we thought we knew what bad traffic was in Montreal, we had no idea what we had in store for us here. The streets are extremely narrow and no one really respects stop signs or pedestrians. The drivers seemingly have a code they follow that, to an outsider, seems like complete chaos, with barely a foot between each car and random turns coming from everywhere, no turn signals, and only a few near death experiences. However, the most incredible aspect of the drive was the transition from the most wealthy area in all of Colombia to one of the poorest. We started by driving through an area with beautiful apartment buildings, marked by nice cars and residents who include Shakira and many politicians. As time went on, the buildings started to become more and more rundown and the population became more and more dense. After an hour or so, the once prominent apartment buildings became simple shanties. There is nothing like it in Montreal. To see the contrast between the people who live in poverty and the extreme upper class was something I will never forget.

After about 15 minutes of treacherous driving into the mountains, we reached our destination: a simple concrete slab no bigger than my parents’ bedroom and some supplies. My first reaction was, “How in the world are we going to build a house here in only a matter of hours?” We were then introduced to the families we were building for. They were so nice and the two little boys were incredibly cute. We then set to work. I can’t even describe the amount of teamwork and communication needed to put the house together. Even though there was a clear language barrier, working with the Colombian people was surprisingly easy. It was also really clear how important this was to the native people. At one point towards the end of the day, the leader of the foundation knocked over a bucket of water, which to us seems like no big deal. However, this simple mistake almost brought her to tears. It was a huge sign of how important this project was and how much of a difference we were making.

All in all, day 2 of the trip was so much fun. I got a lot closer with a bunch of people who I was not really friends with beforehand. Working together as a team to make a difference was an experience I will never forget.

– Samuel Freder ’17