Location: Cusco

Today, for our first day of service work, we got the privilege of visiting a place called Casa Mantay, a home for teen mothers who were impregnated under unfortunate circumstances and their children. When we first arrived, we were warmly greeted by the house’s adorable dog Greta and given an opportunity to learn about the organization, its purpose, and the way it functions through a ‘speech’ from their director. We were then introduced to all of the mothers who ranged in age from about 13 to 18. Although some were rather shy at first, we all broke the ice with some silly name games that got us interacting and running around with one another. Following a whole tour of the house kindly translated by Javier, we got to work on the major task of the day: shoveling up dirt from where there used to be a wood stove to provide an even surface for them to build a library. As fun as that was, the afternoon was what truly made today an amazing day. We got the chance to actually meet several of the kids and play soccer, have tickling matches, go down slides, and simply joke around with them. Despite the language barrier that the majority of the students on the trip were up against, every single person appeared to make an effort to interact with the moms and children alike and create an environment radiating with happiness in a place that, if one simply heard about the circumstances of the births, may be perceived as depressing. Sad to leave, we all boarded the bus and had a karaoke session featuring Ed Sheeran who we learned the people at Casa Mantay love as well. We had dinner at another local Peruvian restaurant that had everything from salad to pizza to guinea pig and alpaca. When we returned to the hotel, we ended our long day with our first forum during which we debriefed our day and attempted to define service and respect as we see it. As a group, we decided that service is the act of giving a helping hand, your time, and passion for having a positive impact while showing respect and commitment without any expectation of reward; it also includes stepping out of your comfort zone to engage in selfless acts that change you and others for the greater good. The part of the forum that resonated with me, and probably others as well, was the quote Skylar shared with us from her high school choir teacher that says, “respect is what you have when no one is watching.” With that, we all headed to our rooms for a good nights sleep and loads of anticipation for what’s to come.