This summer local musicians, artists, and athletes from various schools in the Boston area traveled to Peru to volunteer their aid. I decided to tag along and film the experience, as well as donate some of my own time to the locals.

Peru is littered with impoverished shanty-towns, crammed with people living in conditions we only see on the Discovery channel – children walk the streets in winter with no shoes or sandals, dodging rabid dogs** and hoping there’s something to eat when they finally make it home.

We began by working at a center for impoverished children, teaching classes such as art, math, English, and various athletics. The children were all so welcoming and full of genuine smiles. Aside from working the center, we made sure to pass out hundreds of pairs of shoes to kids who needed them, and walked through shantytowns giving food to the young kids we encountered.

Coming back to the center later in the trip, I heard some remarkable piano-playing coming from one of the rooms. I pressed my ear to the door, and suddenly an older gentleman behind me told me to go in. Turns out this man was Alberto, the music instructor at the center. The piano-player was a fourteen-year-old, one of Alberto’s students. He was eager to show off the young man’s skill and had me film his prodigious skills. I also got the chance to attend a recital, filming students of all age groups display a mastery of pieces from Chopin to Show-tunes.

Aside from teaching classes and giving out donations, we also dug the foundation for a new “raised” garden and a chapel for the locals. They don’t have the money for professional landscaping services, so we grabbed what rusty shovels and pickaxes they had and got down to business. The soil here is anything but fertile. Peru is technically a desert, and under about the first foot of sand, there’s usually a layer of solid rock that needs to be broken (anywhere from 8-15 inches thick).

I could type for days and not do the trip enough justice – I would say it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I know I’ll be going back very soon. I forged many new relationships there, and with their level of poverty, it is clear that Peru needs our help.

**There is a bad stray-dog problem in Peru – you’ll see many dogs on the side of the road, bloated and sick, as they have nothing to eat so they feast on trash and other dead animals.