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A successful service trip to Peru for SIS students

(SIS) — Leaving the island during the summer is always a big deal for students living on Saipan.

Many of them take advantage of the free time to return to their country of origin, which include places like Korea, Japan, China and the Philippines. As always, traveling to any of these popular Asian destinations requires a lot of planning to ensure a space on crowded planes.

Saipan International School students who make up the group “Destino Peru” had a different plan. They too left the island for a four-week trip, but they were packing their bags to visit a whole other continent: South America.

The ten students, between grades nine and 10 went to Peru for 26 days. Their itinerary included five different cities: Lima, Cuzco, Puno, Arequipa, and Nazca. They started their journey in the capital city and bustling metropolis of Lima, continued to river rafting and experienced zip lane adventures in the valley of Lunahuana. Then they continued their journey to Cuzco, where the students trekked the Incan ruins of Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman, and of course, Machu Picchu, listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The Saipan International School students at Machu Picchu in Peru.  SIS photoThe Saipan International School students at Machu Picchu in Peru. SIS photo

The students continued on their way to Puno, where they visited Lake Titicaca. This lake is the largest in all of South America and, at 12,500 feet above sea level, one of the highest in the world. Afterward, in Arequipa, students ventured to Colca Canyon (Depth 10,730 f. one of the deepest in the world), where they had the opportunity to glimpse the endangered Andean Condor in its natural habitat. Finally, the students traveled to Nazca where they got a chance to overlook the beautifully mysterious Nazca. These lines are a series of markings on the base of the desert that stretch over 80 miles and form different animal figures. Finally, they closed their amazing trip experiencing the fun of Sand boarding in the magical desert of Paracas.

SIS recognizes the importance of compassion as one of our virtues, so aside from this, the students visited Peru’s children’s Hospital where they entertained the children and medical staff with The Traditional Korean “Flower Dance” and many played songs with ukuleles. They also visited the Albergue Cottolengo where they closely worked with disabled individual’s ages 6 to 30. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is a place where more than 120 elderly unprivileged come every day looking for a warm plate. There, the SIS students helped preparing and serving the food for them and also entertained them with various musical performances. They also had the opportunity to attend the Andino Cusco International School of Austergate and the American School Prescott in Arequipa, carrying with them the message of friendship and diversity that characterizes the residents of the Mariana Islands.

This is the eighth group from Saipan International School traveling to Peru. The school has always placed a strong emphasis on the importance of learning about different cultures, their traditions, peoples and languages. With knowledge comes appreciation and respect of these cultures, which is a vital part of Saipan International School’s philosophy.

Destino Peru, founded by Mili Saiki, a long standing member of the SIS family, in 2005 as a language immersion opportunity for upper classmen taking Spanish. Since then, the trip has evolved, shifting its focus from language-learning to the exploration of the cultural, historical, natural, and economic reality of Peru. The result is a learning adventure that would simply be impossible to duplicate in a classroom with even the most cutting-edge educational media. In conjunction with this exploration, we strive to inculcate in our young visitors the understanding that responsible traveling means giving more or at least as much as one takes. Over the years, visiting students have given their time and energy to a number of community programs and service providers, including children’s hospitals, orphanages, and nursing homes. The work we do in Peru is valuable, impacting and life-changing for our young travelers. Destino Peru is more than a whirlwind tour of a country. It’s an adventure that builds life-long friendships, equips every student with the skills to bravely venture out into the world, and instills within them the importance of giving back to the community, whether their own or one they’re visiting. More than 200 students from SIS have already visited Peru, and all agree that this experience has been one of the best in their lives: a life-changing experience and they feel lucky to have had this opportunity.