March 13, 2017
It's autumn in Peru, and the 15 West Chester University students and three WCU employees who will community service there over WCU's spring break are bringing more clothes than they need: They're for the children of Ventanilla's poorest barrio.
The group met the evening of March 7 to prepare and take stock of all they've gathered for Ventanilla's children, from sneakers to soccer equipment to classroom learning aids and more. In addition, students raised all the funds needed to buy lumber to build housing, with enough money left over to send one child to school for an entire year.
Half of the volunteers will work on construction while the other half will plan and run a sports camp at Ventanilla's community center, which is also where the WCU group will stay.
This is the fourth time that assistant professor of criminal justice Michael Antonio has led WCU students on this service trip. He partners with Voices4Perú (V4P), a small non-profit organization founded by Daniel M. Klopp that addresses social injustice, provides basic humanitarian aid, and restores hope for families and children in the local community who have been impacted by gang violence.
Also on the trip for the first time are Donna Sanderson, associate professor of early and middle grades education, and Kelly Chroninger, assistant director of service learning abroad in the Office of Service Learning and Volunteer Programs. Sanderson is excited to be able to share her Cap Kits with the teachers and children in the school Klopp established in Ventanilla four years ago.
Sanderson says the cap kits for this trip "have been changed for the Spanish alphabet and many of my students have created specialty games that align directly with the 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old curriculums that the V4P teachers are using." She will teach the teachers "how to use the materials effectively. I will also observe, make recommendations for program improvement, work with the children, and do three in-services with the teachers."
Psychology student Kristina Rowshan is returning to Peru after having been on this trip during winter break. She was inspired to begin a mental health research project she'll continue in Ventanilla this summer. Her research will be on "cultural perceptions of psychological well-being, hopefully bringing awareness to the views of a marginalized community. I will be returning again in the summer to continue the research and to complete an internship with Daniel Klopp. With the help of Daniel and V4P, I hope to eventually set up a mental health awareness day, bringing psychologists and others to a community that does not have great access to resources."
Klopp has nothing but praise for the students who volunteer, sleeping sometimes on a concrete floor in a community center where there is no shower, truly roughing it. He praised their acts of kindness and love in distributing groceries to disadvantaged families, playing with and sharing laughs with children: "The highest form of charity is quality time, and this is what I saw happen. In a place where children have no freedom, West Chester University students are providing love and hope."