The value of volunteering

PV junior travels to Peru over the summer for a service trip

Pascack Valley junior Anna Urrea met a construction worker named Willie while she was volunteering in Peru. Since she knew Spanish, she was able to communicate and learn about his life while on her service trip. She learned that he had a daughter with autism and was a very family-oriented person. When she was leaving Peru, Willie gave her a bracelet to show how grateful he was of their new found friendship.

“When he gave me the bracelet, it meant a lot,” Urrea said. “It was really sweet because they make less money there than we do. I almost started crying. It was amazing that I got to have that relationship with him.”

This past summer, Urrea went to Peru on a service trip from Aug. 1 to Aug. 15. She had found the trip through a company called VISIONS Service Adventures.

“In fourth grade, I got a pamphlet for service trips in the mail one day and I was too young for that, but it was always in the back of my mind,” Urrea said. “When I was older, I started researching a bunch of different companies to do a service trip and I found this one that I really liked. It took a lot of begging and a lot of convincing, but I got my parents to let me go. I have no regrets.”

It took a lot of begging and a lot of convincing, but I got my parents to let me go. I have no regrets.”

— Anna Urrea

Urrea was never really scared to go away until the night before she left for her trip. When her parents said goodbye to her in the airport, it hit her that she was now alone and on her own. She anticipated being nervous on the trip and was unsure if she would feel unsafe there.

“When I was there, there was not a second during the trip that I felt unsafe,” Urrea said. “I felt even safer there because it was so communal and everyone knows everyone.”

Urrea stayed in a small town in Peru called Urubamba. Each day, she and other students on the trip would wake up at 7 a.m. It varied from day to day, but certain groups of students would make breakfast and wash the dishes. Then, they would go out until 3 p.m. working on different canals where the community got their water.

Since the canals were made out of dirt, water would seep out and they would lose over 50 percent of their water. To prevent this, Urrea and the other students went to different canals in varying towns and cemented them.

“There was nothing electronic,” Urrea said. “We would literally be mixing cement with shovels and be in an assembly line, passing the buckets along.”

The service trip also consisted of working on a school that had been already started from a different service trip. The school had been in the works for two years and Urrea helped in building the lunch room of the school.

After working, Urrea would be able to play soccer with the kids and the other people in the community.

On the trip, Urrea met people from around the U.S., as the trip was open to students and adults that wanted to volunteer.

Urrea was roommates with Laila Rizvi, a 10th-grade student from Leman Manhattan Preparatory School located in Downtown Manhattan in New York City.

“We would stay up all night talking about everything,” Rizvi said when contacted by phone. “This turned into a great friendship.”

Rizvi has been going on community service trips for the past three summers to “gain a deeper connection with the world” around her. Peru has been her favorite service trip thus far.

“My favorite experience on this trip was being able to immerse myself into the Peruvian culture with the entire group,” Rizvi said. “We all learned so many new things about their history, food, clothing, people, and improved our Spanish skills, as well.”

Urrea and Rizvi are still in contact. Rizvi said that since most of the students from the trip live on the East Coast, they try to all get together once a month.

I’m very grateful to have went on this trip. I’m very thankful for it. My eyes have just been opened a lot more as well as my views of the world.”

— Anna Urrea

The trip did cost money, but Urrea said it was worth it as the money goes towards supplies that are given to the community in Peru.

“I’m very grateful to have gone on this trip. I’m very thankful for it,” Urrea said. “My eyes have just been opened a lot more as well as my views of the world. I’ll think about it all the time like anytime I’m down or anything, I’ll think about how I had such an amazing opportunity. I learned so much from these people in general who have such different lives than we do. It just opens your eyes to all these new places and people and how different their lives are.”