After three flights totaling 18 hours of travel, 25 high school Spanish students and four adults from Oak Creek, Wisconsin arrived in Lima, Peru in June 2019. The trip was an opportunity for students to experience Peruvian culture, practice Spanish, and help create a special garden for the girls of the Sacred Valley Project.
The Sacred Valley Project, which operates solely on donations and volunteers, provides schooling and housing for girls, ages eleven to eighteen, from surrounding rural mountain communities. In Peru, indigenous communities are scattered throughout the Andes Mountains. The closest school to the villages in the mountains can be a three to four-hour walk. Many girls experience violence and encounter dangerous situations on the long journey to and from school. Without the Sacred Valley Project, many of these girls would not be able to attend school.
With pickaxes and shovels in hand, the high school students got to work, creating a vegetable garden for the dormitory. “In five hours, we made over 300 mud bricks,” recalls senior Lauryn Fowle. “We had an assembly line going: pickaxing the ground, shoveling dirt, shifting dirt, and making mud bricks,” senior Emma McCoy adds. The vegetable garden will be a sustainable food source for the girls who live in the dorm. The girls will take part in growing and preparing their food every day. The mud bricks were used as the edges of the garden as well as to create a wall around the premises.
“I am really proud of the students,” says Spanish Teacher Susan Tucknott. “They really ‘dug-in’ and asked a lot of questions, and I think they got more out of the trip because of it,” Tucknott continues. The group had a chance to talk with some of the girls at a festival in their home village. “Students were able to talk with the girls from the school, and they realized these are kids just like me who don’t have immediate access to education,” Tucknott shares.
While on the trip, the group immersed themselves in Peruvian culture, creating native art, exploring the Pisac market, tasting local delicacies, and visiting Machu Picchu. “I loved learning the history of Machu Picchu. It was breathtaking, and I was speechless the whole time we were there,” high school senior Halley Grams recalls.
The trip was full of unforgettable experiences, but the most impactful part of the trip was the garden the group helped build for the girls. “Education is a privilege. When you think about what the girls go through and the challenges they face to get to school, you realize how lucky we are here to have immediate access to education,” McCoy shares. Thanks to the hard work of the group, there will always be a part of Oak Creek, Wisconsin in Peru, and Peru will always have a place in the hearts of the students and adults who attended the trip.