Christopherson Business Travel is a proud corporate sponsor of CHOICE Humanitarian. In addition to voluntary employee contributions and matching program, Christopherson sends a group of employees on a week-long humanitarian expedition each year. CHOICE Humanitarian works in seven countries to help those in extreme poverty. Last July, our group employees visited a small village of Piura in Peru. Michelle Vaughn, an accountant from our Alabama office was selected to volunteer on this trip.
Ah, Peru–what an incredible experience! One thing that amazed me the most was how welcoming and thankful everybody was–from the littlest kids to the oldest elder, they all were so sweet and happy to see us, especially the moms in the village. Our expedition team project was to help build the village’s preschool. You could tell it meant so much to those mothers to finally have a safe and happy place for their little ones to go to school. A few of the ladies told us they have been trying to get this school built for twenty years. I could not believe this! How many preschools and “Mother Day Out” programs do we have to choose from? Yet in Peru, it took this community more than 20 years to get one building for their children. Before the school was built, they just had one small room that was shared as a community center.
Throughout the week I was reminded constantly of how much we take for granted. We wake up in the morning, use the bathroom and flush the toilet; we brush our teeth and don’t think once about where the water is coming from or where it is going. In Peru it was a three-hour process just to get water for us to flush the toilet. Like this process of gathering and using water, everything in the village was rudimentary and manual. I was very aware of just how much we rely on power tools and machines back home to do the work for us. Here, they were lucky to have a hacksaw and shovel.
But of course, even though the Santa Elana community was poor in so many monetary ways, they were rich in ways we Americans often forget. The villagers we worked with have such a strong sense of family and community. Everybody there helps everybody and relies on each other for their everyday needs. They were also some of the happiest people I’ve ever met in my life. It didn’t matter to them that they didn’t have newest games, nicest car, or biggest house. They were happy with what they had. We could all learn something from them.
It was a very eye-opening experience and I am forever grateful to Christopherson and CHOICE for the opportunity.
Read our employee’s experiences from past humanitarian trips: