December 14, 2011

Students to lend a hand in Peruvian village

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- As Father Time ushers in the new year, he’ll find a group of Southern Illinois University Carbondale students in Peru, thousands of miles away from campus. 

They’re not making the trek to South America for some grand party, but rather because they want to help children.  Members of the registered student organization Childreach International, an affiliate of the national grassroots nonprofit organization Childreach International USA, will be in Peru Dec. 27 to Jan. 9 to work collaboratively with people in the region to address community needs.

The students will stay in tents in Cachijata, in the Ollantaytambo region of Peru, and work on multiple projects, according to Kelsey Fuller, president and coordinator of the campus chapter and leader of the Peru expedition.  They will primarily assist with school improvement and carbon offset projects. 

The focus of the School Improvement Program is assisting with various renovation and construction efforts to transform rural schools in the developing nation into safe, healthy and stimulating learning environments, Fuller said.  Volunteers accomplish this in a number of ways, including improving access to clean drinking water, establishing a free lunch program at schools and even constructing irrigation systems for local farms.

Fuller said their group will be helping rebuild a classroom and working on a hand sanitation project, encouraging and teaching children and adults to practice good hygiene for improved health.  In addition, Childreach promotes sustainability, so the University students will be planting trees to offset the carbon emissions caused by their flights and visit and to counteract the effects of deforestation and degradation of the nation’s forest and reduce farmland soil erosion, Fuller said.

“We will be working on site from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, stopping only to eat meals, and, of course, to play with the children,” Fuller said.  She said an important aspect of this effort is that the volunteers will work with third-party contractors to provide jobs to members of the local community, not just at the moment but for the foreseeable future as they continue school and construction work.

“We are not only helping the children and the teachers of the school but also providing jobs for the community members and that’s rewarding.  It’s an uplifting feeling to know that we are giving families that have so much potential an income.  Childreach International USA gives community members that chance,” Fuller said.

The Saluki volunteers, who will work in conjunction with people from the parent organization and local residents, have been raising funds since April to prepare for the trip.

“We have really put a lot of time and dedication into raising more than $47,000,” Fuller said.  They’ve had team fundraisers at local businesses, pasta dinners at the Newman Center, a table at the Friday Night Fair, and solicited donations from businesses, family and friends.  One of the volunteers, Charlie Sedig, even rode his bicycle more than 460 miles to raise money for the trip.

“The donations we’ve received have really touched all of our hearts and the determination and commitment that the volunteers have had in preparing to be the first USA team with Childreach International to travel to Peru is absolutely inspiring,” Fuller said.

Any funds not required for the actual travel expenses will go toward the projects and helping the people of Peru, Fuller said.

“Childreach works at the grassroots level with local communities, governments and other non-profit organizations to come up with sustainable solutions to issues and problems, empowering children and the local people to create positive change through community-based solutions,” Fuller said.

The Peru service trip is a perfect example of students reaching out to help others and how SIU Carbondale prepares its students for civic leadership, according to Mythili Rundblad, coordinator of service-learning and volunteerism for Student Life and Intercultural Relations. 

“Kelsey first contacted me when she wanted to establish a chapter of Childreach International on the SIU Carbondale campus in spring 2011.  I think it is obvious that her dedication, passion for service and enthusiasm have paid off.  Not only do we have a Childreach International RSO on this campus, but now, the University’s chapter is the first group of college students from the United States to make this service trip to Peru!  This is one more example of Student Life and Intercultural Relations providing opportunities for students to develop as global citizens,” Rundblad said.

Fuller expressed appreciation to Rundblad as well as to the group’s RSO adviser, Jeannie Killian, development skills training specialist at the Center for Academic Success, and Peter Gitau, associate vice chancellor and dean of students, for the assistance they have provided to the RSO and its members.

The Saluki volunteers also welcome donations of money and small gift items for the children, such as craft supplies and SIU Carbondale items.  There is a donation box in the Student Life and Intercultural Relations office on the second floor of the Student Center or you may contact Fuller at or Rundblad at (618/453-5714) to help.

Students participating in the Peru service trip, listed by hometown with year and major, are:


            •  Alec Perry, graduate student, communication disorders and sciences


            •  Emily Boyer, senior, Spanish


            Megan Hoelscher, senior, civil engineering.

Elk Grove Village

            •  Kelsey Fuller, sophomore, undecided

Fox River Grove

            •  Michael Jarnebro, junior, philosophy/international studies/political science


            •  Josh Hrdlick, junior, communication


            •  Charlie Sedig, a former therapeutic recreation major

New Lenox

            Mary Petrizzo, junior, anthropology and social work


            •  Olivia Coker, sophomore, art education


            Rebecca Dull, senior, marketing


            •  Jessica Brunner, junior, plant and soil science



            •  Jordan Myhre, senior, physiology and Spanish

Fuller said plans are already in the works for a return trip to Peru and for a service trip to Tanzania in summer 2012 and students and community members are welcome to get involved.  To learn more, visit the Childreach website at or email  Or, to find out about the local group, contact Fuller.