Saint Peters University students realized the importance of living in the moment in Puerto Eten, Peru

August 2019

This is a community that believes women are not as strong or hardworking as the men.  I heard some of the guys saying ‘you see, women can too’ and another saying ‘you have to work as hard as her.’  I’m sure we changed a few minds”. – Leslie

I decided to go on this service trip because I enjoy community service and love to travel, and this trip had both opportunities. Each year, I make it a goal to travel to a new country. Peru is a country that I had not visited yet, and it was on the top of my list of places I wanted to see and experience.

 The objective of the service trip was to volunteer to build an athletic court alongside community volunteers for the youth in the community of Puerto Eten, so they have a free public place to play soccer, volleyball, basketball and other sports. Courts for Kids has a great service model that prepares volunteers to adapt to the local culture, and reflect on the experience, which is much aligned with our Jesuit mission at Saint Peter’s University.

As we started to work on the court, many of the locals asked us why we were there and what we were doing? We explained that we were volunteering to build the court for the children and community members and in collaboration with the community, which will provide them a place to play different sports. All of my classmates and I didn’t know what to expect when we got there. We grabbed our working gloves, wore our caps, sunglasses, and construction boots and began to work. In the beginning stages of the court, we had to flatten the area in the court, before we can get started on putting cement on each square of the court. Flatting the area took about two days to complete and the rest of the days were making the cement and adding it to each square. There was a job for everyone, three stations to make the cement, sand, rocks, and delivery of the cement in wheelbarrows.

I learned from the community to be able to enjoy the simple things in life. I feel that we are accustomed to such a fast paced lifestyle that we don’t really enjoy and take in what’s going on around us.” – Ana

The first few days didn’t seem like we were making any progress, but as the days went by, more people began helping us out. This project inspired many members of the community to join us in working on the court, including a wide variety of age groups, from small children to college students, adults, and senior citizens. In a short amount of time, we started to build relationships with the people. We found common interests, laughed, smiled, and made endless memories. Some of the volunteers did not speak the language, Spanish, but the language barrier did not stop them from befriending the locals and finding creative ways to communicate. The members of the community were down to earth, caring, understanding, friendly, and welcoming.

Two of the people that we met were Fernando and Hugo. They were some of the construction workers that we got to work with in Puerto Eten to build the court. Certain sad events had happened to the both of them, but they overcame those challenges to work for a bigger purpose. They wanted to work to support the community and for the children. They are the most resilient and persistent workers I know. Both of these men demonstrated a perfect example of hard work, dedication, and determination.

The people of Puerto Eten expressed their gratitude, by inviting us to their schools to meet the students, welcoming us with delicious Peruvian food and inviting us to participate in traditional Peruvian customs and performing arts.

“No matter how large the world may be,
we can always find a common bond.” – Renee

We got to participate in Fiestas Patrias which is a holiday to celebrate the Independence Day for Peru. We went to schools and the students demonstrated their culture, through dance and traditional music. One of the little boys in the class named Juan Pablo told the folklore story of a fisherman in Puerto Eten. Then, he danced to the one of the traditional dances in Peruvian culture, called the Marinera. The whole dance was so adorable and fascinating to watch and what impressed me the most was the age of the children. They were all around three to four years old. The whole week, we were celebrating the Independence Day of Peru.

We also got to explore other towns that were nearby Puerto Eten. Such as Monsefu and Lambayeque. In Monsefu, we got to see fireworks and other traditional Peruvian dances. The fireworks were a different experience, compared to the ones back in the United States. In Peru, the fireworks are at a close distance, meanwhile in the United States, the fireworks are displayed across the river between New York and Jersey or are at a further distance. The city came to life, with all of the music, food, laughter, cheer, and fireworks. It was truly a wonderful time.

By unplugging from my phone I was able to create bonds I wouldn’t have created if I had used my phone. I want to take that home to my family so I can create a stronger bond than what we have now.”
– Brooke

The next day in Lambayeque, we got to go to a museum called the Royal Tombs of Sipan. It contains most of the important artifacts found at Huaca Rajada by archeologist Walter Alva in 1987, including the Lord of Sipán and his entourage. In this museum, we were not allowed to bring anything inside. No purses, cell phones, backpacks, cameras,  only bodies and that is it. It was an enlightening experience because we got to take absorb and learn about the history of this tribe without any distractions. Inside the museum, it there was little to no light. There was only light to showcase the artifacts.

After completing the service trip, I realized the importance of living in the moment. As Saint Ignatius of Loyola once said, the service of faith and the promotion of justice are to be men and women for others. The people in Puerto Eten are resilient and persistent in whatever task they have to get done and always put others first, before themselves.

I learned to be happy and grateful for the little things.  Hard work always goes a long way.  Always be persistent and resilient in everything that you do and to never settle for less. This service trip has gotten me excited to participate in other service trips in the future.  I plan to have a career that travels to countries around the world while helping to serve others.- Ericka, Saint Peters University student