Feature News

BREAKAWAY Takes Service Trip to Peru

Jul 26, 2018

BREAKAWAY’s 2018 summer service trip was initially planned for Nicaragua, but a change in the political atmosphere required a new itinerary. Social security protests across the country and other parts of Latin America posed a risk for prospective travelers.

“We determined that Nicaragua was not going to be a viable option based on the U.S. State Department’s categorization of how risky it is for Americans to travel there,” said Jess Weaver, North Central’s newly appointed assistant director of civic engagement and social innovation.

Luckily, the Fuller Center, an organization that BREAKAWAY currently partners with for its service trips, has sites in multiple countries across Latin America.

Weaver, the trip leader, helped determine that Peru would be a safer location and the students could still build homes with the same organization, upholding BREAKAWAY’S focus on service, community and cultural engagement.

BREAKAWAY is an organization at North Central College that offers various international and domestic service trips throughout the year. Recently, BREAKAWAY participants have traveled to Nicaragua, Kenya and Appalachia.

Maria Requena '18 and BREAKAWAY president Danielle McAuliff lays bricks for the home’s foundation in La Florida, Peru.

Maria Requena '18 and BREAKAWAY president Danielle McAuliff lay bricks for the home’s foundation in La Florida, Peru.

There was no language requirement for the service trip, though there were three native Spanish speakers among the BREAKAWAY members, with Weaver counting herself as proficient in the language.

“The students didn’t seem to have any reservations about just being out there,” said second chaperone Andrew Zobac ‘12, the College’s assistant director of residence life. “They were not afraid to talk to people and engage. Even if they didn’t speak a little bit of Spanish, they would find a way to communicate.”

Weaver was especially proud to see students maintain positive attitudes.

“I think the best part for me was seeing how students rose to the challenge—both the physical challenges and also the challenges of operating in a different culture and connecting across language barriers. I think it’s such a cool opportunity. They get a chance to see how different a community can look,” Weaver said.

In my experience, traveling to a different country always allows me to understand my own culture better,” said Danielle McAuliff ’18, BREAKAWAY’s president. “On this trip I was able to learn more about my own culture as well as understand and appreciate the Peruvian culture.”

Maria Requena plays a game with children in La Florida.

Maria Requena plays a game with children in La Florida.

McAuliff enjoyed bonding with children who lived in the residential area of La Florida, where the group was building a house for a local family.

My favorite memory from this trip was playing with the kids who were always hanging around the worksite. Even though we didn't speak the same language we had a great time together,” she said.

Students worked on the foundation of the house, pouring concrete and laying bricks for the walls. Among them were professional builders from the Fuller Center and members of the family receiving the house, who were working on their home to pay off the cost. Evelyn, the recipient of the home, was frequently around the worksite while her husband was at work and her children at school. 

Students worked on the house for four days, which allowed them three days to explore more of Peru. They went whitewater rafting and traveled to Lima and Paracas. Weaver credits their guide for taking them to stunning and culture-rich locations. Among the most memorable was a water tour of Paracas.

“Had we not had [a guide] who was this immersed in Peru and dedicated to educating us about the country, we never would have found our way there. We got to see a lot in a short amount of time.”

Carter Sherman ‘19

Maria Requena giving new friends a ride.

Maria Requena giving new friends a ride.