My name is Cara Guenther, and I am a Spanish teacher at Riverdale High School. Last summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Lima and Ventanilla, Peru to work with the Voices 4 Perú organization, along with a group from another area school. For so many reasons, it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life–one that I look forward to repeating in the future.
As an educator, this experience was invaluable. Obviously, I was given an opportunity to practice and further my knowledge of the Spanish language. Beyond that, however, I was able to experience a culture firsthand, that previously, I had only read about. In my classes, we often speak of the traditions and history of the Spanish-speaking world. However, now, when I talk to my students about the capital of Lima or even climate, I am able to speak about these things from a firsthand perspective, making the culture much more accessible to the students. I can add in stories of interesting places, like sandboarding in Huacachina (a place I previously had never even heard of) or my favorite Peruvian foods. The students instantly “tune in” when I include these types of stories, and become genuinely inquisitive.
I have previously traveled to other Spanish-speaking countries, and really enjoyed the cultural experiences that I have had there. However, this trip offered me a much more personal and intimate glimpse into the Peruvian culture than I have ever felt through those previous experiences. Instead of just touring monuments and museums, we had the opportunity to work and talk with the staff of Voices 4 Perú and many of the people who are served by the organization. We were able to interact and play games with the children of the community, worship with them at their youth group services and even cheer on the Club Dan soccer team. The people of the Las Lomas community were welcoming and kind, and made us feel as if we were part of the community. Additionally, the awesome staff of V4P went out of their way to make sure that we were comfortable, having fun, and had the best possible experience.
I returned home from my previous travels abroad with interesting stories and pictures, and a glimpse into the art and history of the countries I had visited. However, I returned from this trip with a new perspective, a feeling that I had gotten a small glimpse into real Peruvian culture, and friends that I still keep in touch with. As a result of this trip, I am now working with my own students to help V4P in whatever small ways that we can, and to plan our own trip to work with V4P next summer. I look forward to giving them the same amazing opportunity that I had–an opportunity that simply does not exist in the classroom.