In January, 143 New York University students, faculty, and administrators traveled to the cities of Cusco and Urubamba, Peru, to participate in a week-long service project. Students helped install clean burning stoves, construct clean lavatory facilities at schools, plant trees, and helped run free health clinics for impoverished communities.
The group included undergraduate students, deans, and faculty from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholars; and members of NYU administration. Working with ProPeru Service Corps, a not for profit development agency, the group worked 9-hour days to complete development projects alongside Andean community members; most of the students stayed with host families in Cusco, the seat of Incan heritage, or in Urubamba, in the Sacred Valley.
“I’m proud of Steinhardt students’ commitment to global public service,” said Mary Brabeck, dean of NYU Steinhardt. “Their dedication to improving the lives of those in developing countries speaks to Steinhardt’s mission to prepare students to lead in this interdependent world.”
The Peru project was the biggest, most extensive international service trip Steinhardt has organized, said Lindsay Wright, assistant dean for planning and communication at NYU Steinhardt. “The decision to spend a week engaged in international development work evolved from discussions with the students themselves,” she said. “Seeing firsthand how individuals become change agents, within the context of a developing country, was an invaluable lesson for them.”
Students installed cleaner burning stoves in homes where families traditionally cook over an open fire without a chimney. The families inhale a dangerous amount of smoke, which is the fourth leading cause of death in the developing world. The stove funnels the smoke out of the home and reduces the amount of wood burned by 20 to 50%, improving lung and eye health and conserving trees.
Students also traveled to communities to give workshops on nutrition and hygiene and help local doctors and nurses treat patients. Students worked in obstetrics, dentistry, and general medicine, helping with teeth cleaning, anemia testing, treatments for stomach parasites and tapeworms, and pap smears to test for cervical cancer. Without the clinics, many of the patients would not have been able to see a doctor or pay for the treatments. “It was amazing,” said Steinhardt sophomore and vocal performance major Dianne de la Veaux. “I felt I made more of a difference in that one week than any other service project I’ve done.”
The students worked directly with community members to build hygienic lavatory facilities for three local schools. Music performance major Kristopher Nolte, another Steinhardt sophomore, was impressed by the volume of work accomplished during the trip. “The best part was working alongside members of the community. It was inspiring what we got done.”
The students also worked individually with community members to plant every tree, forging connections with individuals they might not otherwise have the chance to meet.