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A team of students and staff participated in NYIT's second Alternative Spring Break Project, March 17-25 in Independencia, Peru. In collaboration with the International YMCA and the YMCA of Peru, trip participants continued the water purification initiatives begun on the first Alternative Spring Break Project in 2011, helped to build a pharmacy, and volunteered at an orphanage. Their efforts addressed health, environmental, and social issues facing the community. Students included: Eiman Al Sakha (architecture), Fernando Arzu (communication arts), Cindy Chan (architecture), Arooj Chaudry (life sciences and health nutrition), Dyesha Durm (sociology/social work), Natalie Jaggernauth (architecture), Helen Liu (business administration), Theresa Piccolo (psychology), Emmanuel Sanchez (IT), Elizabeth Sanchez (phychology), Ronika Sethi (life sciences and health and nutrition), Chinam Tomeda (mechanical engineering), and Oliver Vasquez (telecommunications network management). Vanderie Vielie, HEOP counselor, served as the NYIT staff trip leader.
Sound interesting...watch the video to see our students in action!
Student team member Theresa Piccolo shares her experiences in this blog.
March 19, 2012
Today was the first day of construction, and we began building a pharmacy. We all got so dirty … it was amazing! When the pharmacy is finished, it is going to help the community in many ways. For one, the bacteria in the water here often makes people ill and this pharmacy will give them easier access to much-needed medicine. It feels good to know we're building the foundation of something that will have a strong and lasting effect.
The work was tough physical labor. We mixed dirt and powdered cement with water and rocks to make wet cement, carried it in buckets through an assembly line, and poured it to form the pharmacy's walls. Our team's unity while working together was incredible. Everyone worked to the best of their abilities, and we all took care of each other. I was astounded by the Peruvian community members working alongside us. These individuals—the majority being older women—worked hard, and I could tell they're used to doing this type of labor on a regular basis. Knowing this makes me both sad and inspired. It's a privilege to work with them.
Independencia, the city where we're building, is a special place. It's on a HUGE hill with brightly painted houses dotting the slopes. We climbed to the top and enjoyed a beautiful view of the city. It's a poor area, and I'm humbled by the kind people we've met here. Learning about their lives reminds me of just how good I have it at home with easy access to an education, a car, water, and more. These things are such luxuries to the people of this city. It's crucial that people like me understand how fortunate we are and make sure we never take it for granted.
March 20, 2012
The children here are absolutely beautiful and genuine. They welcome you with big hugs and kisses. I'm amazed by how carefree they seem, as if the unfair conditions around them don't matter, or maybe they are too young to understand.
Meeting Peruvian children is one of my favorite aspects of this trip. I love children in general and envision a career working with them. In particular, I met one little boy with down syndrome at the orphanage we visited, and another in Independencia, who both brought me to tears. I think about the struggles they face living in poor conditions and that they may not get the specialized attention they need as children with disabilities. At the same time, these children motivate me to attain my post-graduation goals. I plan to pursue a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling because I want to work with the special needs population. After I receive my master's degree, I am hoping to enter the Peace Corps, so I can work abroad with disabled individuals. I truly believe one day I will return to Peru and give these children more of the assistance and attention they need.
March 21, 2012
We finished building most of the pharmacy! Such a bittersweet moment. It is inspirational to see the pharmacy go from nothing but a floor to having four near-complete walls. Although we're all tired after three hard days of work, I truly wish we had more time to build. I must come back to the site one day to see the finished product, and I hope the rest of the team joins me. I know our hard work is going to help the community in the long run.
This team is made up of some of the most kind-hearted and strong individuals I've ever met. Each and every one of us brings something unique to the group, and we blend together so perfectly. Vanderie, Eiman, Arooj, Ronika, Liz, Natalie, Cindy, Helen, Dyesha, Fernando, Oliver, Emmanuel, Chinam, and our YMCA buddies Brad and Lucas—I thank each of you for letting me get to know you, and taking the time to get to know me. What we've done here in Peru is remarkable in so many ways. I will hold this experience and all of you near to my heart, always. Together, we both physically and emotionally climbed mountains. I couldn't have asked for a better team to do it with!