Eisenhower senior serves needy during trip to Peru
September 6, 2012 2:12PM
Eisenhower High School senior Ana Ramirez appears above the famed Inca city of Machu Picchu during her trip this summer to Peru. | Supplied Photo
Updated: October 10, 2012 6:11AM
Spending three weeks touring a foreign country, sampling cuisine and absorbing new wonders would change anyone.
Spending three weeks working with impoverished people while improving infrastructure in Peru fueled dreams and clarified career plans. At least it did for Ana Ramirez.
During her three-week service project, the Eisenhower High School senior learned a new way to define “outsider”: A suburban Chicago teenager helping rural people in a foreign land.
“As a Latin American, I was fortunate to connect with the Peruvian community on a greater level (than other student volunteers). I believe they have preconceptions about American culture, just as we have our ideas about other cultures,” said Ramirez, who received a scholarship for the experience from the organization Rustic Pathways.
Ramirez said she quickly adapted to life in Peru. The warm embrace of her hosts made that possible, she said.
“No matter where you’re from, they receive everyone really well,” she said. “I think they might be some of the most inviting people I’ve ever met. They shared their lives with me, just as I shared a part of me.”
Ramirez went to Peru to work along with other American students. She spent part of her time in the Lunahuana valley about 120 miles from the capitol city of Lima.
“I stayed at a volunteer-run secondary school in a one-dirt-road village,” she said. “The students live far away. They dorm at school. My group helped the community with starting the essentials to build a kitchen.”
The Americans cleared and leveled land and then carried sand from the river to the lot to build the foundation. During her time working at the school, Ramirez distributed supplies she brought with her from Eisenhower.
“The kids could not have been happier,” Ramirez said. “I wish I could have taken more.”
The Peruvian odyssey crystallized her career plans: Ramirez, who visited Dartmouth College the week after returning home, envisions working for Doctors Without Borders someday.
“After experiencing life in the Andes, I realized that I have a calling,” she said. “I want to combine my privileges as an American with my experiences to try and solve many issues facing particular communities by joining Doctors Without Borders.”
Ramirez said she witnessed how people in rural Peru feel connected to each another, an aspect of human existence that other nations can miss in the pursuit of more.
“Their sense of loyalty to their community was overwhelming,” she said. “They are still enchanted by their surroundings and respect nature, much more than we do. Many of the people I met were humble-poor but so hardworking and happy.”
Provided to the SouthtownStar