Headlines (Campus Updates)
Helping a Peruvian community – one step at a time
Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
In August, 13 students from Laurier’s Waterloo and Brantford campuses spent two weeks building 172 steps into the side of a mountain in the Peruvian Andes. The tall task was part of the second annual humanitarian trip to Lima, Peru, organized by Laurier International and Solidarity in Action.
“A lot of us struggled with the concept at first – like, why are we building stairs?” says Lise Pedersen, Laurier International’s manager of programs and services, who accompanied the students. “When we think of helping communities in need we think about building homes, schools, wells… but we quickly found out just how much the stairs help when we saw mothers carrying their babies down the side of a mountain every day to get water.”
The community did not have stairs because it was only established four years ago, and the Laurier group was among the first to visit the newly erected shantytown.
“At that point, the only other vehicle that had come down the road they built was a water truck,” says Pedersen.
Solidarity in Action, a Canadian not-for-profit organization, connects with a social service agency in Lima called Solidaridad en Marcha. In addition to keeping their ear to the ground for opportunities to help nomadic communities after they’ve relocated, Solidaridad en Marcha runs a medical clinic, a preschool program and a maternity ward. Laurier kinesiology student Jade Ryan volunteered at a rehab centre and helped a stroke victim with exercise rehabilitation, while Stacy Peguegnat worked in the maternity ward and witnessed the birth of a new life.
They also took Spanish lessons each day and participated in cultural activities, including a trip to Macchu Pichu.
“I think these experiences are good for students because they allow you to gain hands-on experience you wouldn’t get in the classroom,” says Erin LaFramboise, a fourth-year psychology major and Solidarity in Action veteran. She says her first trip to Peru was one of the most amazing experiences of her life, so she jumped at the chance to go back as a student leader and trip assistant and help others have the same eye-opening experience.
“I learned so much about social justice, Latin American culture, teamwork, leadership, and myself,” she says. “You learn more about social justice issues than you could in a textbook or through a lecture, and you can do placements in your own field of interest, like health or education, allowing you to understand how to incorporate social justice issues into your own career interests.”