From June 20th to July 11th, Groton students traveled to the East-African country of Uganda for an experience of cultural exchange and service. The group stayed with host families for five nights in Rukungiri, a very rural, agricultural town in the country. Groton partnered with the town’s school, Bishop’s High School, as both teachers and students shared cultural knowledge. Mr. Prockop and Mr. Reed, who both taught science classes at the school during the trip, led the group as it built an improved wood-burning stove that not only had positive environmental effects for individual households, but for the area as a whole. The traditional Ugandan stove is comprised of three heated stones beneath a pot. This method wastes heat and produces smoke. Comparatively, the wood-burning stove that Groton introduced encourages more efficient cooking, resulting in less indoor air pollution. The new technique also promotes less consumption of fuel which reduces the amount of deforestation in the country. During the trip, Groton students played soccer and took field trips with the students of the high school, and helped some of the students with their English. Students also brought the children English books for their school library and formed a “Talking Campus” by instituting inspirational signs around the Bishop’s High School campus. “It was a successful trip,” says Mr. Reed.
This summer, 17 Groton students traveled to Peru with Mr. Gemmell, Ms. Hughes, Mr. Das, and Ms. Palomo. From June 17th to July 3rd, the group worked in Anco Pancha, a small settlement in the country. This community is comprised of peoples whose homes have been lost due to landslides, flooding, and other natural disasters. The Peruvian government has given these people their own area of land, but theye do not have any other support or social services. They also live in a very dangerous region: some of the village’s children have been hit and killed by trains and cars in the area. Groton has assisted by paying for speed bumps to be built. In addition, this summer Groton students were committed to accomplishing several projects, including digging holes for posts for a fence to separate the playing court from the nearby railway tracks, and creating a community center and library out of a vacant building. One of the achievements of the trip was the unification of two groups of people. “We helped to integrate two cultures,” says Mr. Gemmell, one of the trip leaders. But one of the biggest goals that the group had was to better understand themselves, others, the world, and the true meaning of service. Mr. Gemmell says that, while working, “The kids were doing, and being.” Many of the students posted their thoughts about what they learned in Peru on the trip’s blog page. Was the trip a success? “Definitely,” says Mr. Gemmell.