Building Serious Karma in Peru
“Our trip to Peru was truly amazing,” says Elizabeth Marsh, teacher and leader of Carmel High School’s Peru Project. This summer fifteen Carmel High School students, all girls, travelled to Peru with four chaperones, also all women, to work along two dozen Monterey Institute alumni and students under the supervision of Team Peru and the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development.
Project Peru was inspired by a talk Team Peru founder Aaron Ebner (MPA ’11) (in the photo on the right with CHS student and Project Peru founder Mai Lee) gave at the high school last year, and the girls worked all winter to fundraise and prepare for their summer experience. The group spent two weeks in Peru, exploring the ancient Inca ruins in Machu Picchu and elsewhere, horseback riding and learning salsa dance, but they all agreed that by far the most rewarding time was spent working with the Monterey Institute contingent in the community of Ccachin.
At the high altitude of over 12,000 feet, descendants of the Incas living in Ccachin and neighboring villages have a very limited diet of potatoes and a few grains. Team Peru and the Andean Alliance have been working on projects relating to increasing sustainable food production in cooperation with local schools and community leaders.
The Carmel High School students helped dig foundations for two greenhouses, moving 12 tons of adobe bricks and rocks, while also connecting with the Ccachin students, serving as cultural ambassadors, teaching them games like “Duck, Duck, Goose”, playing soccer, giving English lessons, and breaking bread together. The girls also brought school supplies, clothing, and toothbrushes to share with children in both secondary and elementary schools.
“Because of the Carmel High Students, young people in Ccachin will now be able to incorporate many new vegetables into their diet, and take further steps towards a healthier life,” said Adam Stieglitz (MPA ’11) of the Andean Alliance from Peru, where he is working on other community development projects with his colleagues and fellow MIIS alums.
Getting the high school students to the Andes was a bit of a challenge and required some bridging of the gap between how graduate students and 15-year-old girls travel, shares Elizabeth Marsh. But once there, “it was really gratifying and enjoyable.” The return home was no less challenging, as one of the girls lost her passport, but through incredible luck she and Mrs. Marsh were able to obtain an emergency passport and get home only 36 hours after the other group members. “I guess building a greenhouse builds up some serious karma.”