Fresh from exams and final assessments, 27 Griffith University students celebrated the end of Trimester 2 by packing their bags and jumping on a plane to South America. The delegation was part of the Student Guild’s annual volunteering trip and spent two weeks teaching English and supporting a local community in Urubamba, Peru.
From 21 October – 4 November, Griffith students worked at three schools in the Sacred Valley community. Students were involved in creating murals, tree planting, teaching English and assisting with an after-school program. The Student Guild works with Challenges Abroad to ensure that the volunteering project is part of a bigger plan that will deliver sustainable and real benefits to the local community.
Programs Officer, Stevie Snook, explained that Challenges Abroad has identified English language skills as a priority in the area because it opens up greater opportunities for further education and better-paid employment. In an area where high school is not compulsory, the chance for children to strengthen their English skills can mean the difference between a high school education or being taken out of school to begin work in the home.
The program was available to all Griffith University Gold Coast students, with some participating as part of a credit-base Community Internship. Pauline MacDonald (Bachelor of Primary Education) said that the trip was a fantastic experience and that she enjoyed meeting the challenges of cross-cultural communication.
“We were able to teach English our own way and go in with a blank canvas, so to speak. It helped me reflect on what I’ve learned in my classes and then I had to adapt it to suit their style of teaching and learning. So that was challenging but rewarding” said Pauline.
After fundraising throughout the year to offset some of the trip costs, Griffith students also raised funds to build a roof at the Palccaraqui School to deliver much-needed respite from extreme weather conditions.
Pauline reflected that it was this sense of group accomplishment that was one of the highlights of the trip.
“We were a diverse group of different ages and from different subjects who came together to pursue a common purpose and achieve the organisational goals.”
The challenges continued after the placement with most of the group taking the opportunity to extend their visit with a one-week hiking trip to Machu Picchu to test their physical and mental strength.
The awe-inspiring mountains were the site of an unforgettable impromptu graduation ceremony for Ricky Lam, who missed his own ceremony to be part of the trip.
After a successful program, Stevie believes that in addition to providing a service to others, volunteering experiences develop students’ patience, open-mindedness and gives them a new found gratitude for what they are lucky enough to have in Australia.