Our Peru expedition is the most challenging and intrepid of all our regular trips abroad. Every three years, we take a group of 15-18 year old students to support local schools in the Lucre area of Peru with past projects including building shade sails in school grounds and helping schools to set up their own fundraising enterprises. Churston first went to Peru in 2006, and our most recent expedition was in July 2017.
What makes the Peru expedition different?
The expedition process is focused on self-development from the start. In the two year lead up team members work in small groups and individually raising money to fund their expedition. They plan their itinerary alongside experienced staff and our in-country contacts. Through Tom Jolly, ‘our man in Peru’, they liaise with the partner schools in Valle Sur, Cusco to decide on mutually beneficial projects. When in Peru there are myriad opportunities to push personal boundaries, including managing the expedition budget, negotiating with Peruvian locals and even taking turns to run the whole expedition for a day.
The staff are there to ensure safety, emotional and physical wellbeing. However their aim is to stand back and let the students organise themselves wherever possible, even when things are not going to plan. Time is built in to the 24-day trip for fun and relaxation too. In the spirit of the expedition, the team agree between themselves what they want to do with their free time, and how to use their budget – a trip to Macchu Picchu always seems to be on the itinerary. Other potential activities include fiestas, traditional food, music and dancing, and sightseeing. Visiting the local orphanage is always a high spot, and of course the obligatory Inca markets for your souvenir poncho.
“Confidence in life, leadership and decision making skills, independence, teamwork, and appreciating both the needs of others and what you’ve got, and making you strive harder to achieve what you really, really want. And overall just the very best, most fun holiday to a fantastic country! Also (this may appeal to parents) learning to live and work within a set budget. Also to save up for the trip itself is no mean feat!” Harriet
What do students gain from the trip?
It’s impossible to quantify what individuals who have been to Peru bring back, individually or as a team. More than two years of planning culminates in 24 days from which both students and staff learn immeasurable things about themselves , the country of Peru and, most significantly, the people they meet.
Expeditioners learn everything we’d all like the opportunity to develop: self-reliance, teamwork, maturity, responsibility, tolerance, and communication. Couple this with practical skills such as organising, budgeting, problem-solving, managing risk and motivating others. Added to that, the students report back that working with staff, students and local families from the Peruvian schools provides them with a healthy dose of compassion, empathy, humility, gratitude and pride.
“Going to Peru on expedition was definitely the best thing I ever did while at Churston, and I would do anything to rewind and do it all again. I’ve learnt that the more you put in the more you get out.” Vicky
So what about the practicalities?
The strong links we have in Peru meant that for the 2014 expedition, we decided not to use a commercial expedition provider, but to organise the trip ourselves. This was very successful, and reduced the costs by about 25%, to £3,000 per student. We organised the 2017 expedition in the same way, with the continuing support of Tom Jolly of Global Ed, and Andy Dare, an old Churstonian who happens to live in Cusco, and is very excited to be involved.
£3,000 is a lot of money, but the fundraising is part of the whole expedition journey and, with over two years to raise it, the team members are capable of finding innovative ways of topping up their savings towards the total.
Accommodation on the trip is a combination of a friendly comfortable hostel in Cusco, and camping in Lucre hosted by our school partners. By camping ‘on site’ the team lives and works within the communities that we support, and there are many gains from this. The hostel in Cusco provides a welcome break from project work, amongst the hustle and bustle of tourists and locals intermingling within the walls of the ancient Inca city. The team decides on the exact proportions of time spent in each place as part of their itinerary planning.