BY ASHOURINA SLEWO
Ten Brother Rice students took part in a mission trip to Peru over the summer, led by Spanish teacher, Kairos leader and 2002 Brother Rice High School alumnus, Andrew Ciesielski. While most took the opportunity to embark on the mission trip for the mere fact that it was a break from the everyday routine, they were met with life-changing experiences.
“It’s not usual for someone to go to Peru on a mission trip and help the poor,” said senior, Julian Karim. “Especially in the Chaldean Community, most are afraid to step outside of their everyday lives and take these opportunities.”
Having led five of the seven trips to Peru that Brother Rice has participated in, Ciesielski knew what to expect and brought an invaluable amount of knowledge and experience to the trip. “It is a unique trip since it has the power to radically change the meaning of “poverty” for our young men,” said Ciesielski. “This is important that they understand the bubble of Brother Rice and their communities is not the center of the world.”
The majority of the trip was central to service, with the first three quarters allocated to immersing, engaging and helping the community. The first half of the trip was spent in Lima, while the second half was spent in Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo. “We engaged in many small services such as helping a lady peel beans for small amounts of cash, playing with kids at the local school, and cementing/painting a house in Jicamarca, a small village,” said Karim. “The largest task for service was building a house.”
It was through the carrying out of these services that the perspectives of the students changed. The mission trip was no longer about getting away from the monotony of everyday life, but about helping the people of Peru. The students quickly learned that their views of the world didn’t come close to matching the views of the locals they were helping.
When the students were tasked with building a house for a family in need, they came to realize that what the people of Peru lacked in material possessions, they made up for with their immense spirit.
“We built a house for a family that lived in a home that us Americans would call garbage; their cardboard walls hung by string and poles,” said Karim. “A family of five that shared one bed. We knew these were not safe conditions for a family with children to live in. We were very happy with the final product of a nice, green-colored home. They now have one of the nicest homes in their village. Still, this home that seemed like a mansion to them was something that no American would feel comfortable living in.”
The trip allowed for the students to view the world around them differently, forever changing their perspectives on everything from the homes they live in, to the air they breathe.
“It is one thing to read and see pictures of situations like those in Peru; going there, we saw the reality up close,” said senior Macallan Kizy. “We breathed the same dusty air the people of Peru breathe every day. We experienced the different types of work people do to earn a living. We stood next to those in poverty. The trip opens the heart and lights a fire to help not only Peru and other countries, but our own nation.”
The last quarter of the trip was spent exploring Peru, stopping to visit various archeological sites in the Inca Sacred Valley. Each student kept a journal, recording their experiences as they went along and reflecting. Logs of the trip can be found on Brother Rice’s website.
“You walk into the trip not knowing what to expect,” said Karim. “You have a small idea and a general background of what will be going on; but once you are there, it is not what you imagined. Just being there was something I’ve never experienced or seen before. I experienced a whole new way of life.”
The mission trip to Peru is highly recommended by both students and leaders. “It is a humbling experience but the result is one that pierces the heart and can forever change a person,” stated Ciesielski. “I believe it is a great experience, especially as our young men prepare to go to college, that they have this experience and can hopefully stay grounded and become an advocate for others.”