Barry McNamara  |   Published March 23, 2015

Peru’s Challenge

Helton ’15 will volunteer, intern for South American organization after graduation
Bailee Helton’s Monmouth College journey has been marked by discovery. The senior from Shelbyville changed her major from education to psychology when she discovered she had a passion for social work. Recently, a college-sponsored trip abroad opened her eyes to the needs of an impoverished mountain village, causing her to set a course for her first experience after graduation.
 
While on a nine-day trip to Peru last December led by faculty members Kristin Larson and James Godde, Helton learned about Peru’s Challenge, a non-governmental organization dedicated to developing sustainable schools and communities in remote villages surrounding Cuzco. It works in long-term partnerships with local communities to empower the poorest and most vulnerable rural populations.
 
“Their co-founder is an Australian woman who married a man from the area,” said Helton. “She told us about her experiences, and about how the government had pretty much given up on the community. But with the program’s help, they’ve built more schools and classrooms. There are more opportunities for children, and the program helps prepare them to go in careers.”
 
Continued Helton, “I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do after graduation, but the very next day, I e-mailed the organization to become a volunteer.”
 
Helton’s 25-day assignment is from Sept. 14 to Oct. 8, and she has also secured an internship with the Peru’s Challenge Program that will last for the remaining weeks of 2015. Between her graduation in May and her departure for Peru, she plans to work in her family’s banking business in Shelbyville.
 
Helton will teach English five days a week, while also assisting with transportation. The other two days of the week, she’ll help with construction projects.
 
“During the volunteering, I’ll also be able to travel with them,” she said. “For the last weekend, to celebrate, we’ll take a four-day hike to (15th-century Inca site) Machu Picchu, and we’ll camp out to see the sunrise there. I got to see Machu Picchu on the college trip, but we’ll have more time there this time. I’m looking forward to learning a little more about everything in Peru.”
 
The change of scenery was an element that Helton enjoyed on her first visit there. She also enjoyed the “beautiful cathedrals … and trying different things. I enjoyed seeing how they do things differently.”
 
When she returns from Peru, Helton might do a little more banking work before starting her next adventure, which could be the Peace Corps, or working for an organization such as St. Jude’s or Make-A-Wish.
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