Location: Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru

Today we started a new service project with MySmallHelp working at a school in the Sacred Valley and helping with a garden project, sanding old chairs, and painting a classroom. We woke up early, as usual, arrived at the school around 9 in the morning and were able to see a great view of the glaciers in the mountains as soon as we walked up, along with many farm animals and people. We greeted the professors and children as we were assigned jobs around the school. At first, I was assigned to work in building a trench that would feed into the garden since the water the school had access to was filled with chemicals that killed the plants. Ryo, Shaan, Amy and I worked as a team in the trench by scooping out the grass and widening the channel to fit the new water pipes. By the end of the morning, we had successfully connected pipes that would lead water from the nearby glaciers into the small garden in the schoolyard. We continued to build small trenches that would feed into multiple places in the garden before covering the pipe with the surrounding grass. After we were done, I helped to freshen up the classroom with a new coat of paint and sand down chairs so they could be re-stained.

We then took a break for lunch at a nice restaurant in Ollyantaytambo where we had a traditional Peruvian lunch of soup, chicken and vegetables, and a crepe-like dessert. After finishing lunch, we all relaxed in the yard outside the restaurant until it was time to return to the school. When we went back to the school, we played a game of soccer with the kids and painted their faces. After all the kids had gotten their faces painted, Abby and I got Javier to paint our faces, but we ended up looking pretty scary. Then it was time for us to return to the hostel, so we said goodbye to the kids at the school, took a photo, and then went back to get ready for dinner.

For dinner, we ate in and had pizza, and afterward, we had a forum. This forum was unlike the others we have had, and encouraged us to share a lot of things we usually don’t talk about. Although it was an emotional experience for everyone, I think it helped to join our group together even more. We talked about “what you can’t tell by looking at me.” After today, our trip would be halfway over, and it was good to see that every single member of our group was having an amazing time on our trip. It was also our last night as an entire group because the 40-hour group would be leaving for their four-day hike the next morning. It was unfortunate to know that we wouldn’t be able to see some of the people who had become our closest friends, but we all shared a big group hug before going to bed in preparation for the next day.