In July, ten Columbia Independent School students traveled to El Chino, Peru, in partnership with Be the Change Volunteers (BTCV) to help build a classroom for an Amazonian community. This is the tenth international trip with BTCV and the fifth trip in a row to El Chino.
The team, led by CIS teacher Morched Ben-Ayed and two parent volunteers, headed to work as soon as they arrived in Peru. Primarily, the group did construction work- including concrete pouring/mixing and tying rebar. Some also dabbled in furniture, from constructing chairs and chests to painting and varnishing them. Teamwork between the CIS volunteers and the residents of the El Chino community made the jobs enjoyable, in spite of the high humidity.
Junior Abigail Reardon, who joined the BCTV group for the second year, describes her experience as the best one yet! “The people we worked with, both in the CIS community and in the El Chino community, were just such an incredible group this year. I think we all had very strong bonds together, and worked together in perfect harmony! The kids in the village were excited to see us this year, and much more open to spending time with us - so much so that we'd take breaks while the varnish was drying to play pato, pato, ganzo, or duck, duck, goose, as well as a colors game that none of us could understand! While not all of us could speak Spanish, and only one of us was truly fluent, we had a great time, and communicated with the kids primarily through smiling, laughing, and tickling.”
“Arguably the best part was playing and hanging out with the kids,” Senior Andrew Miller recalls. “They had such a vivacious energy about them that became contagious. No matter how hard the work was, I always left with a smile on my face and a kid running alongside. It’s definitely something everyone should do, in my opinion. It really changes how you see your world.”
Though the group worked hard, they also had fun! Activities during the trip included early morning bird watching, night hiking in the forest, night boating, and zip lining. During the last two days of the trip, the team visited Lima, the capital of Peru, where the group toured the city and viewed its amazing historical architecture.
CIS’ partnership with Be The Change Volunteers provides upper school students with an annual opportunity to experience the world as part of our Global Perspectives curriculum. Learn more about Be the Change Volunteers at www.bethechangevolunteers.org.