Kaya García ‘24 traveled to Urubama, Peru, on a VISIONS service trip alongside more than 25 teens from around the United States. VISIONS is an international community service program in which collaborative service work and cross-cultural living help teen volunteers understand a complicated world and learn meaningful ways to contribute productively.
Over the last two decades, VISIONS has worked with Urubamba residents on various projects, making a positive difference to the community for generations. From helping expand irrigation systems for farmers to building much-needed school expansions, these construction projects are instigated by locals and executed by teen volunteers working with them side by side.
“To be able to connect with these people was amazing,” Kaya said. “Having spoken Spanish since birth, it came easy to me to be able to connect with them. I noticed how little people had, yet they were the happiest people in the world. The kids’ shoes had holes in them but they still boasted about how amazing they were to them. Seeing this, it made me realize how much I really have and all I should be grateful for.”
For three weeks, Kaya helped construct bathrooms for a preschool, clear out canales (a water supply in the mountains), and build brick walls to prevent water from flooding down the mountains. The group also built cafeterias, taught kids English, and made them new foods.
“I gained so much from this trip but the two main things I learned were happiness and appreciation. For three weeks, I survived without my phone and connection to my parents. When I got back to the states, it felt like a chore to use my phone, as if it was dragging me down. Coming back, I was a different person, helping my parents more and realizing how much they have done for me. I didn’t have cold water or heaters for three weeks, keeping in mind that it was winter there, but I was probably the happiest I had ever been in my life. Because of how impactful it was on me, I want others to experience it, too!”
Pointing out that, as a school, Gulliver values helping the community, connecting, and being kind to everyone, Kaya urges more members of our school community to get involved with projects and service trips like the one she experienced. “Not only are you helping others, you’re becoming a better version of yourself. Being a Gulliver student or private school kid in general, you live in a bubble. You forget how little most kids have, but how much they love their life. These kids and adults really do teach you how to become better – not from actions, but simply their presence. In a heartbeat, I would get on a plane and go back – not only for three weeks, but up to three months. That’s how much it filled my heart to be there.”
While in Peru, Kaya had the opportunity to experience one of the Seven Wonders of the World. “Waking up at three in the morning to hike Machu Picchu during sunrise felt like a dream. Something I never imagined doing. Having done this, I can’t wait to go back and help more communities around the world for the rest of my life.”
To learn more about VISIONS and how you can get involved, visit visionsserviceadventures.com.
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