Change starts in your own community

Here’s why She’s the First Scholars in Peru took an 8-hour field trip.

For She’s the First Scholars in Peru, home is often very, very far from school. Some live in Andean communities four or five hours from town; others need to travel the better part of a day if they’d like to reach the nearest secondary school. To overcome these obstacles, programs like Sacred Valley Project provide a safe dormitory for the girls, giving them a home away from home and access to a high school diploma that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

For the students, the opportunity comes with a responsibility to do well and to pay it forward to others. So for a recent service project, they decided to travel out to a remote community to hold workshops for the local students, and to put their leadership training into action.

STF Scholars pose in front of the primary school where they tutored children for their service project; photo by Kate Lord

Mendosayoc, Peru, is located deep in the Andes. From the Scholars’ dormitories in the Sacred Valley, it’s a six-hour drive with only one town along the way. With 30 STF Scholars packed into one large van, their first leadership test came in making sure everyone stayed happy for six hours.

A van full of STF Scholars weaves its way through the Andes; photo by Kate Lord

But after a handful of mountain passes, one pit-stop for cheese sandwiches, and only one flat tire, the group made it to the end of the road. Once there, they packed heavier equipment (like tents and sleeping bags) for a few donkeys to carry, slung their own backpacks over their shoulders, and set off for the seven-mile hike to Mendosayoc.

The trail itself winds itself down the side of mountain, passing through areas with no shade, places where people had carved out tiny paths after huge landslides, and finally emerges by a river where the air gets humid and hot, before working its way across a bridge and straight up a second mountain to reach the town.

STF Scholars (from left) Maria Albertina, Maria Elva, and Carmen enjoy the view from Medosayoc; photo by Kate Lord

Once there, the four Scholars from Mendosayoc reunited with their families for the first time in months, introducing their friends to their relatives, while they all worked together to cook a dinner of chicken soup. In their spare time, the Scholars played soccer and card games against the backdrop of the mountains and prepared for their workshop the next day. At night, they settled into the tents they had set up along the school or slept with one of the local families.

STF Scholars Magaly, Yessenia, and Marisol; photo by Kate Lord

On Friday, the STF Scholars decided who would lead the workshops for each grade, and then set out to conquer their first lessons. The Scholars taught basic English words to the elementary school students, helping them pronounce the words and take notes to remember what they had learned.

STF Scholars Yakeline and Flor Nayda teach an English lesson; photo by Kate Lord

The Scholars wanted to teach English because it’s a skill that can provide an escape from poverty by opening up job opportunities. They also hoped to show younger students and parents what is possible with an education — even if you have to travel far from home after elementary school to get it.

STF Scholars Almendra, Marisol, Roxana, Lisbeth, and Elizabeth; photo by Kate Lord

As they set off the next day for the long trip back to town, they chattered excitedly about their next project and the next town they’d like to visit. Education has already changed the game for them, and they’re determined to make sure it counts for their communities back home.

photo by Kate Lord

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