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

Spring: The Season of Firsts

2012_2013_DominicanRepublic_052We felt it for the first time this week; spring was definitely in the air. After a long, dark winter, we are finally about to experience the change of season. Spring is such a wonderful time of year. It is a time of rebirth and renewal for the natural world and one cannot help but be inspired its magic. I love the smell of the earth reemerging after the snow melts.  Then comes the return of green grass, colourful flowers, bushes and a canopy of leafy trees.  Without fail, every spring I marvel at how this annual cycle of renewal occurs.

Spring is symbolically the season of firsts and things new. In recent weeks, in the larger world, there have been a lot of new developments and firsts worth paying attention to.

Pope Benedict resigned and a new Pope was selected as the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. This new Pope is a first in that he is the first non-European to take on this leadership role.  As a cardinal from Argentina, Pope Francis is the first Pope from South America – and his first decision was to choose the name “Francis” in honour of St. Francis of Assissi who lived in the 13th century.  Inspired by the writings of St. Fancis, this new Pope is clearly orienting his papacy toward the world’s poor, oppressed and marginalized. He has also pointed to the significant importance of nature and its protection.

While the Pope was directing his followers to the needs of the world’s poorest citizens, two weeks ago the United Nations published its annual report on the state of the world, in the 2013 Human Development Index.  It is interesting to note that the 2013 report was unveiled in Sierra Leone in Africa, a region that has actually made notable advances in recent years.

Entitled, “The Rise of the South: Human Development in a Diverse World,” the UN report notes profound shifts in global dynamics driven by the fast-rising new powers of the developing world and long-term implications for human development and shared challenges such as climate change, trade and  technology.

The report identifies more than 40 countries in the developing world that have done better than had been expected in human development terms in recent decades. Progress has actually accelerated markedly over the past ten years.  That’s good news – and the ramifications for all of our students in their adult lives will be profound. So we need to help them learn about these important shifts and develop skills to adapt to new realities.

A number of LCC students returned to school last week after experiencing notable firsts. Our Senior Boys Hockey team went to Scandinavia, a first time in Europe for many of the boys.  Our Duke of Edinburgh Gold trip ventured down to Lima, Peru with four members of faculty.  Students completed service work in an urban slum, and hiked to Machu Pichu—surely life-changing firsts.

Several of our students also returned recently from school exchange experiences in Australia, Africa and Europe where they were “forced” to be more independent and had the opportunity to explore new and interesting cultures. I read their blogs and commend them all for their courage and willingness to seek new and challenging opportunities. They all experienced a number of firsts. Those experiences are now etched in their minds and will help to define them as they progress through school and life.

As we begin this final semester of the year, I urge all of our students to be open to the wonder that comes with spring. I also encourage them to consider how and where they can experience some memorable firsts at LCC that will influence, change or maybe even define them for years to come. – Chris Shannon, Headmaster

Travel and Experiential Learning

photo[7]Spend a few minutes reading the LCC blog or our school Facebook page and it becomes abundantly clear, there was lots learned over the March Break.  The school sanctioned three separate student trips this March: a Duke of Edinburgh Gold service/adventure trip to Peru, service in the Dominican Republic, and a hockey and cultural tour of the Nordic countries.

Travel and active learning translates into memorable experiences that shape and change young people, usually for the better.  In recent years, service opportunities in particular, have allowed LCC students to learn more deeply about foreign cultures and a host of development challenges. The learning engages all the senses and broadens the awareness of teenagers to issues they had probably never even considered in their comfortable Canadian lives.  Experience matters and that’s why these trips and foreign exchanges are important ingredients in the development of global citizens at our school.

Read the blog entries of our students or read exchange journals to see how engaging and transformative active learning can be.  It takes courage and a degree of resilience for students to leave their world of comfortable opportunities.

Commendations to all those who wanted to seek cultural differences and know them better.  Now we can all learn from them. —Chris Shannon, Headmaster

Machu Picchu: Mind Over Matter

Machu-PicchuDuring the past four days, we’ve experienced an unforgettable journey: hiking the Laris trail while on our way to Machu Picchu, one of the worlds seven wonders. Although I was faced with certain challenges due to the change of environment, the spectacular views made it completely worth the effort. The first day was the toughest by far as we reached an altitude of 4450 meters. The trail was extremely steep and the lack of oxygen made it difficult to the reach the top. Not only was the hike physically challenging, it also tested my mental strength. Having a positive mindset helped me push through obstacles that I faced. As I reached the summit, I was overwhelmed by my accomplishment. The view was breathtaking and it brought tears to my eyes (the fact that I survived made me pretty emotional). Not only was the the trek unbelievable, but we had an amazing crew by our side. By the time we arrived at our campsite at the end of each day, our tents had already been set up and the mules had brought our bags down. The exhaustion was definitely hard to cope with, but the nights at the campsite were very relaxing. It was incredible to learn how they are able to cook our food without the luxurious tools that we have at our disposal. Even though the days were long and tiring, I have no regrets and look back on this experience with fondness. –Samantha Adessky ’13

Duke of Ed Gold Trip Peru 2013: LCC Pride in Service

Reflecting on our experiences in Las Palmas, we are proud of the improvements. Even though there is still much more progress to be made, we have no doubt that their living conditions will continue to improve. While it is extremely upsetting to witness their lack of proper housing, food and other materials we are fortunate enough to have, the kindness and compassion the community has shown us has left us with fond memories.

Though the citizens of Las Palmas benefited from our efforts, we believe that they have impacted us to a much greater extent by demonstrating important, yet too often forgotten values in our society like teamwork, kindness and compassion. Even without commodities that we value, they have found happiness in their lives, and have reminded us how to do so in our own.

Although this was our final year of service with them, we hope that the  micro-loan project will allow us to maintain contact with Las Palmas and continue to show our support. –  Sarah Salzman ’13 and Kelsey Wiseman ’13