This past May, New York City’s Dalton School organized a community-based trip to Peru. Combining traditional highlights of Peru and community volunteer projects; Dalton students had the opportunity to visit a school and build international relationships with Peruvian students. It was on this trip that one student experienced the incredible value of volunteering and the importance of giving back to less fortunate communities; so much so, he returned over the holidays this past December with his family.
Ninth grader, Jack Jacob, and his family reached out to us a few months back to help coordinate and set up a meeting with the same school he had visited in May with Dalton. Jack, 14, shared that while playing soccer with the Peruvian students, he noticed that they only had one or two soccer balls. It was this moment and Peru simply being an amazing country, that made Jack recommend it as the next destination for a family trip as soon as he got home.
Volunteering and giving back on a global scale isn’t something new for the Jacob family as they always try to fit time for community work into their family trips. More than happy to help out the Jacob family, we help set up their school visit and asked Jack and his brother Jesse, 16, to share their experiences of Peru as a family.
Before they left, we spoke to both brothers who told us that their family planned on donating soccer equipment and school supplies such as crayons, markers, and notebooks. Jack told us he was especially excited to meet the students again, play soccer as well as surprise them with their donations.
Once they got back from their trip, the Jacob brothers took the time to sit down with us to talk about Jack’s experiences this past year travelling with his classmates on a community-based tour and following it up with a family tour.
Tell me about your family trip to Peru, can you paint readers a picture about the trip.
Jack: Our trip was a combination of what I’d guess are the typical touristy things visitors do in Peru: Machu Picchu, Lima, Cusco, etc. We tried to mix it up a bit and get a real feel for the environment and the local culture. We did a four-hour horseback ride in the Andes with a Spanish-speaking guide (who owned the horses). We were the only people out there except for the occasional farmer. It was so peaceful. He didn’t speak any English so Jesse and I chatted with him and translated for our parents and sister. We also stopped at roadside farmer’s stands to buy fruit directly from farm families. Finally, we visited the school I visited during my Prometour trip and got to spend time with the kids and their moms.
What was your favorite part of the trip and; why? How was it going back to your family after visiting your school?
Jack: My favorite part of this trip was visiting the school again. I was really surprised some of the kids remembered me from my visit in May. Andras, who was my partner in May, ran over as soon as he saw me! Returning to my family was a different experience entirely. It wasn’t part of a tour or specific community service activity, as it was original. This time, there was no “instructor” or “leader.” My brother and I were responsible for most of the speaking and introductions. We organized the soccer game and the distribution of the school supplies and soccer gear we collected. It was more responsibility but I was embraced it.
Was there a special and touching moment that stuck with you and you’ll always cherish?
Jesse: Playing soccer with the kids was a particularly memorable experience for me. I teach soccer to kids during the summer in NY, so it was really fun to see the passion and love for soccer is a constant wherever it’s played. When we organized the game with the kids in Peru, we had to play the road because the school was locked. The road was uneven, rocky and unpaved but that didn’t stop the game or the enthusiasm.
How was communicating with the Peruvian students? Was it difficult or easy, did you find you had a lot in common? Did you learn anything from them, if so what? Do you think you taught them something and left an impact on them?
Jack: It felt natural to speak with the students and their moms. My Spanish came really easily. We bonded first through our memories from May, and then over our shared love of soccer. Soccer was a big cultural equalizer for us and the kids. It changed a lot about what I thought and how we’re all connected by sport. Although we are many miles away we can still bond together. After the game, we talked about what it’s like to go to school in the U.S. and the similarities and differences to their school experience in Peru. I was impressed by how happy and enthusiastic these kids are; they’re always smiling. Really big smiles. I’d like to think they’ll remember our visit and feel that we really cared about them. In my little speech at the end, I wished them good luck with their soccer and their studies and encouraged them to work hard.
Do you think community service (at home or in another country) should be a part of every student’s education? Why?
Jesse: Absolutely. Getting involved provides a real perspective on how much we have in our everyday lives. People who do the community service anywhere whether at home or abroad are the lucky ones. Giving – any type of giving, whether it’s time or stuff or money—is a good feeling. It was also a great learning experience culture-wise. I improved my Spanish and social skills a lot by talking to people who didn’t speak English making us practice.
If you can say one thing to people your age about volunteering what would it be?
Jack: Volunteering for a cause you really care about versus volunteering because you have to for school or for credit—is incredibly satisfying. If you don’t or can’t find something that inspires you, you’re really missing out.
What have you learned from this experience? Do you feel as if you’ve changed/grown as a person, with different/new responsibilities and outlook on life?
Jesse: Through this experience, I am newly inspired to build some kind of sharing or giving into my future travels. In March, I will be going to Ecuador with Prometour and will explore the possibilities of helping out in some way, too.
Do you think you will ever go back to Peru? Do you plan on volunteering and giving back again, maybe not Peru but closer to home and within your community?
Jack: If I ever go back to Peru, I’d return to the school and hopefully see those same kids. That would be awesome. But there are many other countries to visit and organizations closer to home where I’m sure I could lend a hand. Last summer, I volunteered at a Brazilian soccer camp here in NY. I was in charge of the youngest kids, ages 4-5, some of whom spoke mostly Spanish. I loved that experience, too.
How do you feel after this entire experience? Overall, was your experience fulfilling and everything you expected it to be?
Jack: This was the first time my family has dedicated a portion of a holiday trip to “giving back” in a way that we completely created on our own and took a few months to organize. Our effort was totally driven by the impressions I had about the school from a Prometour trip I took with Dalton.
Jesse: The trip was fantastic. It was very meaningful to experience a different culture and history. Peru is full of opportunities for adventure and we managed to squeeze in everything you’d want into a 10-day trip. I’d go back to Peru, for sure: 100%