On March 21, three Taylor High School students, Anna Pastrick, Holly Wanek, and Kurt Knue, collaborated with another UNESCO school from Winnipeg, Canada and traveled to Bolivia. In addition to their own luggage, the three Taylor High School students and teacher, Marney Murphy, brought many additional bags filled with items they received to support the needs of the children they were travelling to visit in an orphanage.
These students spent the next 11 days helping children in the poorest country in South America and visiting several UNESCO World Heritage sites in Bolivia. The experience, though incredible and unforgettable, was not one of convenience and comfort. The students worked to paint a gym set and building, scraped and painted window sills, and interacted with the children of the Bolivian orphanage in temperatures of 87 plus degrees with 98% humidity. The students ate unfamiliar foods and slept out of the comforts of their air conditioned homes in Ohio. Nonetheless, they returned home with a changed mindset and understanding towards poverty and different cultures. As the students reflected on their trip at an April 11 Three Rivers Board of Education meeting, Anna Pastrick said that “it was amazing to know how poor they are, yet see how happy of a life they live.”
Throughout the trip, the three students submitted blogs to record their experiences. Included in the students’ reflections were a lot of insight as to their interactions with their new Bolivian friends. Kurt Knue, on day 9, stated that it was his favorite day mainly because of his end of the night volleyball game with local teens who only spoke Spanish. Kurt said, “what began with simple words such as ‘aqui’ and ‘lo siento’ turned into a full conversation. And even though we didn’t always fully translate, I spoke more Spanish tonight than ever before. Our new Bolivian friends have a lot of common interests with us, especially with topics of movies, music, and books.”
Although the students spent a majority of their eleven days working hard to help the children of the Stansberry Children’s Orphanage, they still found time to explore the area. Holly Wanek blogged on day 5 about their hike at Amboro Forest. She said, “the first part of the hike was easy, but eventually we were climbing up and down steep inclines; my phone tracked that we climbed 100 flights of stairs, equivalent to 1,000 feet.”
As with any hard work comes hunger. The one common theme all three students had in their blogs was the food in Bolivia. In Anna Pastrick’s blog, she mentioned, “for breakfast we had bread, dulce de leche, and various fruits.” In Kurt’s blog he explained how their grocery stores, although very different for the most part, did have an American section. He said that he did buy a lot of items from the Bolivian culture (Zacatecas, salsa para nachos picnte, and Rodajas acidas), but couldn’t resist his American favorite, Runts!
Although the exhaustion will wear off, the clothes will wash, and the memories might fade, there is no doubt that the overall experience will forever have a positive impact on the lives of Anna Pastrick, Holly Wanek, and Kurt Knue.