Challa Lacuyo, Bolivia: Students Offering Support 2014 Project Recap
Dates: April 29, 2014 – May 12, 2014
Organization Benefited: Mano a Mano Bolivia
FIU Student Participants: Connie Penczak, Chapter President; Gordon Kingston; Maria Trujillo; Narkay Hervas; Nathaly Milla; Niko Crawford; Penelope Regalado; Bethany Burkhart
During Summer 2014, eight FIU students, all members of the Global Learning student organization Students Offering Support (SOS), traveled to Bolivia to work on a project to assist in the construction of six classrooms and two teacher residences at a primary school in Challa Lacuyo. Our student volunteers were primarily responsible for loading construction materials, plastering the ceilings, preparing surfaces for painting, cleaning walls, and refurbishing desks and chairs. The group also had opportunities to take in the beautiful sights of the surrounding area, and spend time with the schoolchildren, including through sports, meals, and a farewell ceremony.
The trip was led by outgoing SOS Chapter President Connie Penczak, who graduated in the Spring 2014 semester with a degree in criminal justice. She now works with a program through a local charity which assists children in the United States without parents due to immigration and trafficking situations, and is considering her graduate school options, including FIU’s Master’s in International and Intercultural Education.
Connie has been engaged in service locally throughout her college career, including through Relay for Life and Habitat for Humanity, and turned to SOS to globalize her efforts. “This trip, I felt, was going to expand my horizons and allow me to gain perspective on the issues of poverty, education, and culture,” she said.
Quality primary education is personal for SOS member Narkay “Naky” Hervas, who works at FIU’s Children’s Creative Learning Center, and hopes to own her own pre-school one day.
Naky said that her academic program in the College of Education, where future educators learn how to manage diverse classrooms with students from different background and cultures, prepared her for the international experience.
“I learned I am stronger than I thought that I was,” said Naky, discussing the work of moving rocks, shoveling dirt, and sanding and painting desks. She is also proud of having gone out of her comfort zone to travel out of the country for two weeks with fellow students that she barely knew prior to the trip.
The roughly $3,100 US used to support the project was raised by SOS members throughout the school year by hosting “Exam-AID” tutoring sessions for professor-specific sections of classes in the science field at FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus. SOS’s fundraising strategy fosters a system of dual support: helping FIU students pass challenging courses while raising money for the yearly service trip.