including Zoe Holder '08 (top, center) and Consuelo Gonzales ’08 (center),
traveled to Chuso, Peru this summer to volunteer at a local elementary
|Posted 07.11. 07
Service Club Lends Helping Hands to Peruvian Community
Zoe Holder ’08 returned from a Peruvian trip
this summer with knowledge of a new culture, and well-callused hands from
jabbing rocky ground with a pick-ax.
and six other Wesleyan students volunteered to go to Chuso, Peru June 1-17
to help the small village with a community identified need. They are members
of Wesleyan Without Borders, a group dedicated to doing volunteer work in
developing countries, and keeping the Wesleyan community informed about work
Their mission in Peru was to help construct a baño – or bathroom -
for Chuso’s local elementary school. Under direction of a group construction
leader and madres y padres de la comunidad – or mothers and fathers
of the community – the students laboriously dug trenches, mixed mud and
cement, hauled adobe bricks, axed through compacted soils and chopped down
trees. The temperature averaged 90 degrees during the day.
“I’m not going to say that it wasn’t hard work,” Holder says. “It was
completely overwhelming sometimes, but we kept up our enthusiasm and did
whatever we could do to help. The locals were wonderful people and very
appreciative of us being there.”
Wesleyan Without Borders teamed up with Pro World Peru, a service corps
focused on developing relationships with communities. The students lived at
the organization’s headquarters in Urubamba or “the land of plentiful mud
and worms” and bussed into Chuso, a village located 10,000 feet above sea
level in the Andes Mountains, for their service work.
The small school already had one bathroom, however it was unisex and
overused. By pick-axing and shoveling through the dense earth, the students
were able to excavate a 4-foot wide by 8-foot deep trench to place a septic
system. Uphill from the trench, the students helped build an adobe
structure, although they had to take a few lessons from the locals.
“It was so amazing to see how the Peruvians worked,” Holder says. “Building
with adobe is so foreign to us, and it seems here in the modernized western
world, we’re losing our manual labor skills. For Peruvians this comes so
natural to them. It’s in their instinct.”
was accompanied by Deanne Dworski-Riggs ’07, Felicia Appenteng ‘07, Consuelo
Gonzales ’08, Kayla Bennett ‘10, Ashley Castro ‘10 and Kimberly Greenberg
’07. Greenberg is co-founder of Wesleyan Without Borders.
Dworski-Riggs, Appenteng and Gonzales had knowledge of the Spanish language
and were able speak to the villagers in Spanish. They also helped translate
for the others.
In addition to building the bathroom, Wesleyan Without Borders taught local
children about proper health and hygiene using songs, plays and colorings.
They spoke to the children’s parents about parasites and anemia, and
suggested ways parents could protect their children’s health.
for fun, the Wesleyan students played soccer with the children and
introduced them to digital photography.
“We witnessed people living in poverty, but we also saw people living and
laughing,” Holder explains. “In Chuso, it’s just a different existence and
way of living from ours here in the U.S.”
During the last workday, the Peruvian women shared their own special recipe
with the Wesleyan students by preparing a traditional guinea pig dish called
Greenberg says she will never forget the experience.
“The cultural exchange throughout our two-week stay was genuine and
remarkable,” Greenberg says. “The kids loved to have their photos taken and
watch us work as we dug our ditches; all of us eagerly waited for the soccer
matches and rematches and our Peruvian leaders taught us customs and slang
while we taught them about our hometowns in the U.S.”
year, a group of nine Wesleyan Without Borders members, including Greenberg,
pictured at left, made their first development trip with ProWorld Mexico,
where they helped construct clean-burning stoves in the village of Teotitlan
in Oaxaca, Mexico. Next year, the group is hoping to tackle projects in
Belize or Africa.
Holder, says the experience has opened her eyes to new parts of the world.
Already fluent in French, Holder says there are pockets of Africa she could
potentially work, but since the Peruvian experience, she’s exploring job
options in Central and South American countries.
“I want to live life in a global sense by seeing and knowing everyone,”
Holder says. “I want to become a citizen of the world. Peru was just one
more step towards this, and I cannot wait to participate in next year’s
In the fall, Wesleyan Without Borders will present a slideshow on their
service in Peru.
Wesleyan Without Borders was supported by several Wesleyan academic
departments, Broad Street Books and several Middletown businesses. The group
Wesleyan Without Borders is already fund-raising for next year’s trip. To
make a donation or to acquire more information, e-mail Zoe Holder at
The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photos contributed by Zoe Holder.