EDISON — Sixteen students and three chaperones from The Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison participated in the school’s inaugural service-learning trip to Peru from June 10-24.
Head of School Andrew Webster of Edison accompanied the group, which included his sons Max Hernandez-Webster and Julian Hernandez-Webster, also of Edison. The Wardlaw-Hartridge contingent also included chaperones Jim O’Halloran of Westfield and Tanda Tucker of Bernardsville and students Lauren Levine of Fanwood, Laura Becker, Nick D’Amore and Brandon Yin of Scotch Plains, Jack Schildge and Michael Kieselstein of Westfield, Astuti Bhasin, Catherine Iszard, Sumeet Prasad and Stephanie Smyczek of Edison, Roshun Menon of South Plainfield and Shareef Ibraheem and Shafeeq Ibraheem of Piscataway and Melissa Calderon of North Plainfield.
The group, which worked in tandem with the World Leadership School, made improvements to an early childhood learning center in the small village of Bandolista. They also embarked on many hikes to ancient ruins and historical landmarks, highlighted by a trip to Machu Picchu. The students lived with host families and experienced Peruvian culture while learning a lot about themselves during the experience of a lifetime.
“Going to Peru with the World Leadership Program is the best thing I have done in all my 15 years of living,” Catherine Iszard said. “Staying with a home stay family, only speaking Spanish, working for cute little Peruvian kids, and seeing the historical landmarks all over Peru will never be forgotten. The one thing that will stick with me 20 years from now is of course going to the seventh wonder of the world, Machu Picchu, but also my home stay family and their sweet faces.”
While they enjoyed the educational and bonding aspects of the trip, the students went to Peru to make a difference. They wanted to make real progress to enhance the educational experience of the young children of the village.
After spending a few days creating bottles for the Eco Brick construction method, the group shifted gears. The students created blocks for the students to use for play and educational purposes. After the shapes were cut for them, the students sanded and painted them with letters and numbers and corresponding shapes and dots, giving the youngsters a block center with alphanumeric learning aids. The group also sanded and painted the external walls of the school building, which now stands out as a special place in the village with its bright green color.
“While the community members work out their plans for the future, their students will enjoy a better school facility,” Webster said. “We hope to be part of the long-term solution in the future. Once we shifted gears, our kids worked hard to bring the short-term plan to fruition.”
Helping the children of Peru was meaningful for the Wardlaw-Hartridge students.
“I enjoyed being able to step back, after a long day of work, and seeing the difference that we were making in the small town of Bandolista. The work that we were doing brought a smile to the children studying at the school,” Jack Schildge said.
“My time in Peru was an experience that I will never forget,” Shareef Ibraheem of Piscataway added. “Not only did I get to learn about Peru and its history, I got to help the people of the community.”
The Wardlaw-Hartridge School regularly participates in community service projects with many local organizations. This inaugural service-learning trip to Peru gave the students an opportunity to extend its outreach to a global level.
“I’ve always wanted to help people and this trip provided me with the opportunity to help a community,” Stephanie Smyczek said. “I came out of the service in Bandolista with a better idea of how I want to help others. I believe that making a difference in one person’s life is just as significant as helping a community. I am grateful for this opportunity because I had a lot of fun sightseeing with my peers while also helping others.”
“I was changed in many ways by this trip,” Nick D’Amore added. “I have realized how spoiled I am compared to my homestay family and other Peruvian people I met. It taught me many things, like how you don’t need lots of material items to be happy.”
Sixteen Wardlaw-Hartridge students spent two weeks in Peru on the school’s first service-learning trip. (Photo courtesy of Wardlaw-Hartridge)
Students and chaperones begin sanding and painting to enhance the early childhood center in Bandolista. (Photo courtesy of Wardlaw-Hartridge)
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