Junior Clay Sanders spent two months in Peru volunteering with the DukeEngage program. During his time abroad, the Moraga, Calif., native worked with ProWorld Peru, a non-profit organization, and also experienced Peruvian culture. Check out his blog post about the trip below.
¡Saludos desde Perú! I’m Clay Sanders and I am a rising junior on the Men’s Swimming and Diving Team. I’ve taken a break from the pool this summer to live and volunteer in Peru as part of the DukeEngage: Peru program. Our group of 10 Duke students has been working with a non-profit organization, ProWorld Peru, to collaborate with rural communities to promote hygiene, sustainability and healthy living. We are stationed in Urubamba, Peru – a small city at an altitude of 9000 ft., located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, near the city of Cuzco. During the past eight weeks, I’ve been busy building clean-burning stoves in surrounding rural communities and producing ceramic water filters as part of an initiative to improve rural public health and environmental sustainability. So far, we have worked in five different villages and have constructed more than 60 stoves. Though the stoves are somewhat rudimentary -- wood-burning hearths with simple chimneys, made from ceramic bricks and mud -- they burn more efficiently and cleanly than existing stoves and thus provide an improved quality of life for recipients.
Besides my volunteer work, I have had many exciting experiences over the last couple months. Our group has explored throughout the Cuzco Region, the state in Peru famous for its Incan ruin sites, as well as in other areas of the country. Among my adventures over the last two months, my favorite trips have included our excursion to the famous ruins of Machu Picchu; a weekend spent touring Lake Titicaca, at 12,500 ft., the world’s highest navigable lake; a two-day trek to deliver solar powered lights to a high-Andean community; and a hike up to the nearby Chicón glacier (a casual 15,500 ft. in elevation).
I have been living with a host family throughout my stay in Peru and have been exposed to many of their interesting customs and traditions. Eating meals with my family and helping around the house, I have learned a good deal about Peruvian cuisine. While you can bet almost any meal will have rice and potatoes (Peruvians are quick to tell you that there are over 3,800 types of potatoes in Peru), I’ve eaten my share of bizarre foods during the last two months. The most interesting has been cuy, the local delicacy of rotisserie-style guinea pig, but I have also tried cow heart, tongue, and stomach, chicken feet, alpaca meat and mate de coca, a popular tea made from the coca plant. I have additionally experienced several cultural traditions of Andean communities, have attended the wedding of a Peruvian family member, participated in community fútbol games and served as the padrino, or godfather, for the baptism of my young host cousin.
I return to the U.S. next week and am ready to get back to the pool. But I will miss the wonderful Peruvian people I have met, as well as the country’s natural beauty and interesting attractions. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in DukeEngage and represent Duke half way across the world.