For Fresno State lacrosse junior attacker Lauren Kiszely, summer began with an experience that not many people get the chance to have. The Robbinsville, N.J. native kicked off summer 2019 with an eye-opening two-week volunteer trip to Cuzco, Peru.
Kiszely was approached with the idea by a pair of former high school lacrosse teammates who had done the trips before. She was immediately interested and began to pack her bags for the trip.
The group traveled to South America with a nonprofit organization called Globe Aware. The organization's ultimate goal for its trips is to encourage people to give back in unique ways. One of the key concepts of the volunteer trips is to understand the cultural differences in these countries and be able to recognize and appreciate the differences that these cultures bring, instead of trying to change them into something that they cannot become.
That is exactly what Kiszely learned.
"It was very humbling," said Kiszely. "We learned a lot about how people live in these communities. It was a very gratifying experience that I will never forget. It made me appreciate everything that I have here at home."
The way of life is different in Peru than it is for a Fresno State student-athlete in California. With a major culture shock, Kiszely learned quickly that things are not the same.
"They cook by burning stones and dirt, then they cook their food in the dirt," added Kiszely. "They don't use running water. They don't have bathrooms. All of their clothes are hand-made. Many people use animals as a means of transportation. It was just so different."
Globe Aware takes two week trips and sets the first week for volunteer work and the second for exploration of the country.
They stayed at a boarding school for the kids who lived in communities that did not have any kind of higher education. Kiszely and the other volunteers spent their time going around to the different schools around Cuzco and learning about their ways of life.
During the first week, Kiszely and her group worked on different projects in smaller villages such as building staircases, painting and sanding down supplies that were needed for larger projects. They also had the opportunity to help a family build a stove out of mud and straw.
Outside of the hands-on volunteer work, they also helped the local children to enhance their English speaking skills.
"At night, we hung out with the kids and taught them English through different games and activities," explained Kiszely. "We also helped them with their homework and we were almost like tutors for them."
In the second week, Kiszely was able to explore Peru with her group and see the beauty that the ancient sites had to offer. The junior Bulldog had the opportunity to climb Rainbow Mountain and Machu Picchu, visit a small beach town called Paracas, and go sand boarding in the desert at the Huacachina Oasis. The group capped their trip with a stay at Peru's capital city, Lima, before heading home.
In a big, yet small world, Kiszely got the chance to meet up with Fresno State lacrosse senior goalkeeper Laurel Maunder while in the foreign country. Maunder got the chance to study abroad in Peru at the beginning of the summer.
After living in Peru for two weeks, it is safe to say that Kiszely has a new outlook on life and the things that a lot of people often take for granted. Our lives, whether they are in a rural society or in a more advanced one, need to be valued deeply.
"I would 100 percent do it again," said Kiszely. "I am already looking to do another one next summer. I highly recommend that if given the opportunity, everyone should go and experience how other countries live their daily lives and see how different the culture is."
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