Perry Stefanese Photo
The participants of Project Peru are back from their recent service trip.
By Audrey Richardson
Special To The Standard
Woodstock Union High School’s Project Peru group has made it home safely again, completing their fourth service trip.
The mission for this trip was to build a medical clinic in the village of Cabo Pantoja, where Project Peru first built a school. The group has focused their efforts on a small two-village community in an effort to improve their access to education and medical attention.
“They were all lined up on the banks waving and welcoming us,” said John Hiers, who directs the project along with Keri Bristow.
The Peru group receives such a warm welcome because of the impact they have made year after year since 2004.
After the initial exploratory trip in 2004, when the locals pleaded with John and Keri to help, the project has built two schools, two medical clinics, dug wells, imports supplies and clothing.
“The young children especially love our students,” said Hiers. It’s no wonder that the people of the Amazon look forward to the Project Peru team because they truly make a difference.
As far as Hiers is concerned, the impact is reciprocal. “We give the students a mini peace corps experience promoting a peaceful attitude and good will,” said Heirs.
“The medical piece is far reaching as is building a well for clean water, said John Hiers. The structure of the clinic was build out of cement and partially designed by Rick Tobiason. The group has changed some structural aspects of the building from previous projects to better protect from termite damage. The clinic was named the Jesse Robinson Clinic in memory of Robinson who was apart of the 2004 Peru trip. Robinson passed in 2007.
Every year the group of students is different, but most of the leaders remain steadfast. John Hiers, Keri Bristow, as well as Rick and Laurel Tobiason are among the returning leaders. All four leaders have been involved since the inception of the project. This year there were a record number of travelers with 15 adults, including nurses and doctors as well as 35 students from Woodstock Union High School. Before leaving for Peru, the group raised approximately 34,000 dollars to help build the clinic and help fund other projects such as building two wells and providing medical supplies. The Peru group raised some money through grants and donations from community members and organizations as well as creating their own moneymaking events.
“We did a little bit of everything, but one of the most successful was what we called ‘coffee on the green,’ where we served coffee to Woodstock visitors and tourists in the fall,” Hiers said about the types of fundraising that occurred.
For senior Kyle Anderson, the experience could not been more productive. This was Anderson’s second tour in the Amazon as he was a part of the 2009 Peru group.
“This year the students were all really different and came from all corners of the school; it was really surprising how well every one came together,” Anderson said of his fellow travelers. Anderson was impressed at the level of efficiency that the group worked at as well as their accomplishments.
“When we left we had finished the medical clinic from dirt to roof,” said Anderson. Now that the group is home, it is their goal to let the community know that drastic improvements have been made to the quality of the two Amazon villages that the Peru travelers have been focusing on.
As for Anderson, the building of the clinic is only the tip of the iceberg.
“My experience has made me think about how much we take for granted, and we just do realize what we have,” he said.
Anderson is planning to head out West for college this year, taking with him the memories of what he says is a life- changing experience.
Perry Stefanese Photo