Austin Texas Development
A group of high school students from Austin, Texas work on a community development project in rural Peru.

Best friends, Maddy and Christine, decided that they wanted to make a difference this summer. “I have a heart for kids,” Maddy says. The pair contacted Roadmonkey to help organize their trip and set the ball in motion. Awamaki interviewed Maddy and Christine to get a better feel for what inspired this trip, what their favorite parts have been and what lessons they will take away with them.

Roadmonkey (www.roadmonkey.net) frequently partners with Awamaki on their adventure philanthropy trips. Past partnerships have included the construction of Awamaki’s Patacancha Weaving Center, greenhouse construction in Patacancha and a community playground in Ollantaytambo. The community of Huayroncoyacpampa, where Awamaki’s knitting cooperative lives, had put in a request for a community playground about 6 months ago. Awamaki Executive Director, Kennedy Leavens, after talking with Road Monkey determined that this project would be a great fit for the eager group of 5 students from Austin.

Project decided, the students set about fundraising the cost of the playground project. They sent over 70 emails and over a dozen letters to acquaintances, friends and family as well as posting about the project on their Facebook pages. The donations rolled in and their project was funded. Destination: Ollantaytambo!

The group arrived in Ollantaytambo this past Sunday and was able to enjoy a trip to Machu Picchu before beginning playground construction on Monday morning. They expect to complete construction within 5 days and conclude the process with a community fiesta to celebrate. “I just want to see the reaction on the kids’ faces,” said Christine.  Maddy adds, “All the neighborhood kids have been here and they’ve asked us to help. They really want to be involved and we’ve met so many of them. I came here to interact with kids and help them and just seeing that, it’s like, THIS is why I’m here.”

Sustainable tourism initiatives are also being met as the group reinvests money directly into the local Ollantaytambo community by staying with homestay families.  When asked how they feel about Peru and Ollantaytambo Maddy said, “It’s so much different than anywhere else but the people are so nice and our homestay families are so welcoming. We’re always laughing and having fun at dinner.”  “This morning our homestay mom braided all our hair and our homestay father made us a special breakfast of pancakes,” Christine says.

When asked about cultural differences and the personal reward of service learning projects Christine said, “Everyone here is so grateful for what they have and I think, in America, they aren’t. Everyone just expects everything and you come down here and even though they don’t have hot water and the things that we take for granted, they’re still like the happiest people and it’s amazing to see.” “It puts everything in a different perspective,” interjects Maddy. Christine continues, “You go back (to the states) and don’t take everything for granted.” Maddy concludes by saying, “After I went on a service trip last year it was like an addiction. You crave to go back and help more. I feel like people here are so humble about other people coming in and helping.”

Each student is documenting their time here through journaling, photos and video. They will use these materials to spread the story of their trip upon their return to the states. “Our school paper is going to do an article so I think we’ll really be able to show our school what high-schoolers can do,” Maddy said. The students have gotten along really throughout this trip. Maddy continues, “It’s such a great group and we all work really well together. Coming to somewhere and working for something just creates a bond that you can’t even compare to.” “We’ve been talking about maybe doing something like this every year, with this group of people and somehow make it even bigger. Or I was even thinking about maybe bringing it back to our school throughout the fall and continue to raise money and keep it going even when we aren’t here,” adds Christine.

It’s amazing what a small group of youth can do when they put their time and effort into it. For everyone who thinks they’re just one person and can’t do a lot, take a look at these two teenagers from Austin and all that their compassion was able to pull together. We can all make a difference.

Team Members in Photo:

Top: Miguel, Awamaki

Back Row: Heather, Road Monkey; Marshall; Maddy; Christopher; Cathlyn

Front Row: Ann, Chaperone; Christine