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FHSU students help others, learn new cultures

4/11/2014

ELIZABETH GOLDEN

egolden@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University students learned the importance of giving back during the third annual 10-day service trip in Peru. Sixteen students traveled to the rural city of Chimbote to work with local children, distribute beds and build houses. 

Students spent 5 days completing service projects while the remainder of the time involved touring more populated areas of Peru and site-seeing. 

“I think the way this trip was organized helped us a lot,” said senior Carolyn Campbell. “It wasn’t just a service trip. We spent our time in three different cultures within the same country. We were helping people and learning something outside our comfort zone.” 

Campbell said she experienced a major culture shift between Lima, a big tourism city, and Chimbote, where poverty is rampant.

“We were able to experience the different cultures and learn how to navigate them,” she said. 

The group spent the majority of the time building houses for underprivileged communities.

“We spent a lot of time distributing beds,” said Rosa Castaneda, faculty adviser. “It’s a big problem in Chimbote. Many children sleep with adults. They don’t have a good night rest and it’s context for abuse.” 

All group members agreed working with the children was the best part of the trip. 

“You can’t help being happy when there’s little kids running around kissing you,” said freshman Julie Clement. “Even if you can’t speak their language, they don’t care.” 

Leon Luna, senior, said the children were starving for attention and just needed kindness.

“I was getting ready to take a picture with one of the boys,” said freshman Ashli Sarapa. “I don’t speak Spanish, so I made the symbol for camera to let him know I was taking a picture. Then, I put my finger to my mouth to tell him to smile. I said ‘uno, dos, tres’ and he kissed me. That boy stole my heart right there. To them, it’s the little things that matter. They’re so happy you’re there for them.” 

Similar situations are common in Chimbote since most community members need to work, and the children spend the majority of their days locked inside. Some children even are put to work. 

“They have two school rooms,” Castaneda said. “One is for first to third grade, and the other is for fourth to sixth grade. The majority of the students work in the fields before they come to school.” 

The majority of the students expressed strong interest in going back to Chimbote next year

“Students were able to make use of skills in a meaningful way,” Castaneda said. “Some are even rethinking career choices because they experienced such a harsh reality.”