Trip targets service-learning in Peru

By Monica Hernandez


University of the Incarnate Word partnered with Women’s Global Connection in May to continue in the spirit of former service-learning and immersion experiences in Peru. The 11-member group included WGC members as well as UIW full-time and adjunct faculty, undergraduate and doctoral students and staff of the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership.

The group headed off to Lima, Peru, on May 15, right after the end of the spring semester and returned on May 31 before the beginning of the summer. The two-week trip began with touring and exploring Lima and the city of Cuzco with day excursions to Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu before venturing to Chimbote, one of the poorest and polluted cities of Peru, to spend a week performing various service projects. Chimbote is where the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word have been established since the mid-‘60s.

This trip was rich, unique, and unlike former service trips to Peru in that the group was able to experience and learn of Peru’s rich culture, history, land and people led by Sister Martha Ann Kirk, a UIW religious studies professor and the Ettling Center’s faculty liaison, on what she coined the “Peru: Beauty, Faith and Solidarity Tour.”

In Lima, Peru’s capital, the group toured and heard lectures through visits to the National Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. They viewed ancient artifacts, rites and customs of many of the country’s indigenous cultures, the most well-known being the Nasca and the Inca, with a trip on the same day to the Basilica Cathedral of Lima with its rich colonial architecture and religious paintings, mosaics, and relics.

Other highlights of the Lima portion of the trip included trips to markets with their rich and authentic fine textiles, carvings, ceramics, jewelry, and alpaca wool garments; a side trip to El Lugar Del Memoria, la Tolerancia y la Inclusion Social, or The Place of Memory, Tolerance, and Social Inclusion, where the group learned of Peru’s violent and oppressive past; and an hourlong taxi ride to the hills of Cantagallo, Lima, to the women’s sewing cooperative where the travelers were able to meet the artisans, a lively group of warm and friendly Amazonian women of the Shipiba community.

After departing from Lima, the group headed to the ancient city of Cuzco, located in the Andes, where, after acclimating to the elevation, the travelers explored its abundant Spanish colonial art and architecture before taking a day trip through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, or Urubamba Valley with its rich and fertile lands, ancient and archeologic ruins, and hospitable locals in its primordial Andean villages, Peruvians and alpacas alike.

A day after this, the group took a four-hour train ride from Cuzco to the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu, a marvel with its vast mountains, rushing rivers, and steep and breathtaking views of the ruins surrounded by lush tropical forest. This was a great way to prepare for the group’s next week of service in Chimbote where they accompanied many of the people of this seaside city in various nutrition, business, educational, and art projects serving the residents.

If you ask any of the travelers from this trip what had the most impact on them, you would resoundingly hear about their time spent in Chimbote with its people. All of the previous learning and experiences of Peru made this journey into what this author calls “the true heart of Peru” deeper and all the more meaningful. Chimbote is where Incarnate Word Sisters and Incarnate Word missionaries reside and the home of the Incarnate Word Sisters’ clinic, Santa Clara Posta Medica, where the group learned of the growing hospice program.

The group was blessed and well-received by the Sisters and missionaries and throughout the week went off to perform several service projects. One of the projects was art-focused and orchestrated by Immersion trip volunteer Elena Venezuela, an art teacher and UIW doctoral student in organizational leadership with a concentration in social justice, and local Chimbote artist Richard Castaneda Estrada, who led other members of the group in the creation of a mural at a Chimbote preschool, a WGC partner.

WGC has an early childhood education initiative in Chimbote supporting the many schools and teachers there with professional training and other leadership and development programs. Stephanie Mitchell, an adjunct professor of nutrition at UIW, tested the water quality of one of the schools in the rural outskirts of Chimbote. This school, like many others, does not have an adequate water pipeline which leaves their only source of water largely contaminated. She, along with UIW students Yasmine Lainez and Muriel Sanchez, went to the hospice clinic to evaluate the patients and educate them in regards to their nutritional needs as well as to learn about the work at St. James.

Many members of the group participated in WGC workshops for more than 50 preschool teachers and directors held in Chimbote’s Centenario Cultural Center. Mariel Sanchez, who graduated from UIW this past spring with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, created and presented to the audience a Spanish-language brochure explaining the different types of sugar and their advantages and disadvantages and followed this with a visual demonstration.

Dr. Brian McBurnett, a UIW chemistry professor, presented to the teachers a collaborative learning workshop which combined interactive learning and relationship-building towards problem-solving and critical thinking. Yasmine Lainez, a Cardinal Community Leader with the Ettling Center who is involved in sustainability, led a workshop on how to recycle plastic bags by turning them into crocheted bags and purses.

The group further supported the city and people of Chimbote in countless ways. Karissa Rangel, who just graduated with her master’s degree in communication Arts from UIW and is a former WGC communications intern, created a video for its October gala and produced other media content pieces as well as conducted one-on-one interviews with Peruvian women. Monica “Moni” Hernandez, a doctoral student in international education and entrepreneurship and Ettling Center graduate assistant, went on a tour of schools in Chimbote and is currently researching and examining Peru’s education and school system. She worked with a small group of students learning English in a class led by Incarnate Word Missionary Dianne Tribo. Cristina Sanchez, a UTSA undergraduate student in business, and her sister, Mariel Sanchez, acted as Spanish translators of the group.

Cristina Sanchez also conducted workshops in accounting and Excel technologies with the women of Pushaq Warmi in order to provide more tech support for their business. Gabriela Bogran, who also works with WGC, gathered and recorded information or the organization for its continued efforts in Chimbote and was one of the group’s primary blog writers on WGC’s travelblogue along with Monica Hernandez and Karissa Rangel.

But the success of the service on the Peru trip would not have been possible without the hard work, commitment, and leadership of Nicole Foy, WGC’s associate director for communications and community development. Her ability to keep to the schedule was impeccable.

And of course, the trip was abundantly blessed by the knowledge, spirit and guidance of Sister Kirk and the open and welcoming Peru-based Sisters of Charity of Incarnate Word and UIW missionaries with their strong faith and commitment to service.

Service-learning was a big mission of this trip and learning about the rich culture and history of Peru enrichened the service conducted in Chimbote with such service remaining in the hearts of all those who participated in it. In service, we end up gaining so much more than we give.

Editor’s Note: Monica Hernandez is a doctoral student concentrating in international education and entrepreneurship at UIW’s Dreeben School of Education as well as a graduate assistant for UIW’s Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and an adjunct English professor at Northwest Vista College.


WHAT: WGC Immersion Trips Presentation

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6

WHERE: The Village at Incarnate Word in the Assembly Room 4707 Broadway St., San Antonio, Texas 78209 QUESTIONS?: Call (210) 828-2224, Ext. 297, or e-mail Also, check out the Women’s Global Connection travelblogue at

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