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TEARS AND LAUGHTER SPEAK NO LANGUAGE: OUR FIRST SERVICE TOUR

By Ashli Akins, Mosqoy’s Founder & Director


“They have taught us how to give without obligation,” said Irene, one of Mosqoy’s scholarship students. “To give simply because everyone can, despite their lot in life.” Irene stood up at the tour’s last dinner to thank the Brentwood students for teaching her and her peers the art of giving.


This past month has been pivotal for Mosqoy’s Global Stewardship Program. We launched our second social enterprise, our Sustainability Tours, which offers service tours to schools and community groups who wish to visit Peru in a meaningful way while learning how to be responsible travelers and consumers.


Brentwood College School, a private boarding school for Grades 9-12, based in Mill Bay, BC, were our guinea pigs, embarking on Mosqoy’s first tour during their Spring Break. And they set the bar high.

Machu Picchu at sunrise. (Photo by Lindsay Bell.)
Brentwood student, Maria, with children from the Sacred Valley. (Photo by Claire Attridge.)

Over the past three years, Mosqoy has partnered with Brentwood, offering lectures and presentations in exchange for student sponsorships. Eventually, they craved more. They wanted to learn about our programs and the Quechua culture first-hand, to create an interdisciplinary curriculum through experiential learning. Months prior to the trip, Brentwood teachers incorporated its preparations into their Phys. Ed., geography, social studies, and Spanish courses.


And then the time had finally come, for 24 students and their four chaperones to land in Peru.

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Though they visited the classic tourist sites of Machu Picchu, Moray, and Pisac, they unanimously agreed that the most powerful parts of the trip were the connections.

Guido, Raul's little brother, enjoying the meal. (Photo by Claire Attridge.)

Three of our Mosqoy students’ families in Huilloc and Ollantaytambo (small Quechua indigenous communities in the Sacred Valley) welcomed them into their homes. Here, the Brentwood students were treated as guests, not tourists. Raul, one of our students from Huilloc who is studying to be a tour guide, invited them to his humble house where his family cooked cuy (guinea pig), choclo (Andean corn), and mate (herbal infusions).


His mother spoke in Quechua to thank both Brentwood and Mosqoy for their contributions: “Without you, I would never be able to give my son a better future. He would have no hope to continue his education.” She broke down in tears in the middle of her speech, which began a domino effect.


And then these tears turned to laughter as the family invited Brentwood students to dress in traditional Quechua clothing and learn one of their folkloric dances. This is when I was reminded that laughter has no language.


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Brentwood students and chaperones working hard in the garden. (Photo by Claire Attridge.)

Following these family visits, Brentwood students spent four days volunteering their time to a service project for Mosqoy’s Andean Youth Program. They had worked hard prior to the trip to fundraise $7,000 CAD to put towards supplies for this project. And because of Brentwood, we were able to move into our new and beautiful Casa Mosqoy (our student dormitory)!


The Brentwood students landscaped our dormitory’s outdoor space into a beautiful garden, cleaned and painted the walls, and moved furniture. One of the most exciting projects was a collaborative mural, envisioned by all Mosqoy and Brentwood students, based on the concept, “What does Mosqoy mean to you?” The remainder of the funds will be used for our new computer room and library, as well as our first visitors’ room, where our students’ parents can visit their children from remote communities.

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Making our mark! (Photo by Lindsay Bell.)
The artists proudly displaying their mural in-progress. (Photo by Lindsay Bell.)

Perhaps the most beautiful experience of this trip was the final adventure hike. After two weeks of working together, all of the Mosqoy and Brentwood students (50 people total!) embarked on a three-day hike, summiting a 4,800-metre (15,800 feet) peak in the Andean mountains, before descending into the natural thermal hotsprings of Lares.