Contact Dawn Insanalli, director of Public Relations, at (914) 637-2726 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Alexa Serrecchia '14 staff writer for The Ionian
While some Gaels were vacationing on exotic islands or the southernmost beaches of the United States during winter break, sophomore Benny Rivera and eleven other Iona students were making a difference in the lives of many through the Iona in Mission trip to Peru.
Senior Sandy Hunter and moderator Sue Romagnoli led the Peru trip. Other members of the team included Skylar Burns, Andrew Richardson, Mike Stabile, Elizabeth Dellinger, Kara Urso, Sara Lonegan-Rothschild, Rosie McKay, Brian Strafach and Conor Buckley.
Rivera attended the mission trip to Miami last January, so he is no stranger to Iona’s mission trips. After hearing about and reading the description for the Peru trip, he was eager to apply.
“Peru just really stuck out. I’ve been to Ecuador, and I really wanted to go back to South America. I was looking at the other trips, and I wanted to do something I’ve never done,” said Rivera.
As part of the trip, the team built a house for a family in a nearby neighborhood. They also built a roof for another house and worked on the foundation. Together, the Peru team was able to take the supplied pieces for the house and put them together to provide a family with a place to live. However, working on the home was not the only major aspect of the trip. A great amount of time was also spent playing games and doing other activities with kids from the neighborhood.
Many of the children were between the ages six and 10. Taking advantage of the summertime weather, the Iona students would bring the kids to their school each day and play outside or participate in other fun activities. The school was called Fe y Alegria, which translates to “Faith and Hope,” and was located in Canto Grande. The Christian Brothers run the school, but it is owned by a larger organization.
For Rivera, meeting and interacting with these kids was one of the best parts of the trip.
“Going to Peru was the single most moving, most powerful experience I have had the privilege of partaking in to this point in my life, and will continue to be for years to come,” said junior Conor Buckley. “The joy that was clearly evident on the faces of the children from simply playing soccer with them was incredible.”
The Peru team also learned a lot about the Peruvian culture while on the trip. Rivera noted that although they didn’t have a lot, the people they met made the best of the little they did have. One day, the group was invited to a birthday party in the neighborhood.
“They lived in a small shack and still went all out for a birthday party. They have very little but are still living every day to the fullest,” said Rivera. “It was amazing to see that [their situation] didn’t stop them from having fun.”
After leaving the school, the group was able to go sightseeing throughout Peru for the last few days of their trip. They visited many ruins between Cuzco and Ollantay Tambo. The last place they went was Machu Picchu. Rivera said that if he and the team could, they would go back in a heartbeat.
“As much as we did for the community, though, the community did so much more for every one of the twelve of us that participated in the Immersion Trip,” said Buckley.
The Peru mission trip was an incredible experience for the entire team, Rivera concluded.
“The trip made me appreciate what I have in life, inspired me to be the best I can possibly be and just enjoy life, because they have nothing and they're running around enjoying life every day,” said Rivera.
Founded in 1940, Iona College is a four-year private, coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers and American Catholic higher education. It is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona offers undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science, and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs.
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Public Relations Office
Iona College, 715 North Avenue, New Rochelle, N.Y. 10801
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