A contingent of local students and adults is looking forward to what will be a life-changing experience in late March.
Grade 11 and 12 students from the Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division's Christian Ethics program in Estevan, Weyburn and Radville will be travelling to Peru for a 10-day mission trip during spring break. Holy Family staff, as well as parent chaperones, will be joining them.
A total of 28 people will go to Peru. Eighteen of them are students. Among the participants are 11 students from the Estevan Comprehensive School, two local parents and two local instructors.
They'll fly to the Peruvian capital of Lima on March 22, and then travel to the nearby village of Pamplona, in the district of San Juan de Mirafloreof, to help residents gain better access to fresh water.
"The No. 1 job for us is to build a flight of concrete stairs through rubble and bad terrain, which they normally have to scramble over," said mission trip coordinator Lynn Colquhoun. "It is a difficult journey to get to the fresh water access point,"
The missionaries will also be offering a dental hygiene clinic to the young people in Pamplona, and they will adopt Pamplona's young people for a day of fun in Lima, which is only about 20 kilometres away.
Colquhoun said a colleague in the North Battleford area took a trip to Peru with the same facilitator two years ago, so Colquhoun viewed this as the best mission opportunity for Holy Family's students.
The facilitator in Peru said Pamplona's proximity to Lima would be beneficial.
"One of the things that he said would probably give our kids the best experience, and help them to realize how important it is to serve, is that this community that struggles, lives in shanties and shacks, is just moments and steps away from central Lima, where everything is rich," said Colquhoun.
The people in Pamplona have no access to the experiences in Lima, Colquhoun said. And that's why the night in Lima with the Holy Family contingent and the Pamplona youth is so important, as there will be a trip to a zoo or a water park, and then a fancy meal.
"They will see how distinct the two lifestyles are," said Colquhoun.
The students have been learning more about Peru before they leave. They have also received foreign travel tips and first aid lessons, which Colquhoun believes will also be beneficial.
They have been fundraising for the trip, too. Students wrote letters to businesses, asking for support. There were events such as pasta nights and pancake breakfasts, and there was a raffle.
They needed to raise about $75,000 to travel to Peru and participate in activities; thus far they have collected approximately $55,000. There will be additional activities before they leave, Colquhoun said, and each school in Holy Family will have a fundraiser.
The students are excited about the opportunity, Colquhoun said. They're already strong in their faith, they're active in their communities, and they've heard how the experience changes lives.
"The No. 1 thing that they (previous students) report is that every little piece of every little day, that maybe you've taken for granted for years, you no longer do it," said Colquhoun.
"I can remember from the last trip (in 2012), one of the students coming back and saying 'I never thought of not having a door to close when I go home at night.'"
Other participants have said they'll never take running water for granted again.
Colquhoun said she is also looking forward to the experience, as she has yet to take a mission trip through Holy Family.
The school division offers a mission trip through its Christian Ethics program on a biennial basis. This is the third trip that Holy Family has offered.
"Every other year, we offer this experience for students, so that they can grow in Christian service, and so they get the opportunity to practice what they're learning through the Christian Ethics program," said Colquhoun.