Bancroft’s in “Darkest Peru” (but no marmalade sandwiches)

Summer 2018 saw 95 members of the Bancroft’s community travel to Peru to be part of one of the largest and most far-reaching trips in the School’s history. During three back-to-back trips totalling over seven weeks, our pupils were able to: visit the amazing, “lost” Inca settlement, Machu Picchu; explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas; spend time on Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, learn some Spanish, learn more about the local culture; and sample the incredible Peruvian gastronomy. The highlight for many was, however, their involvement with Aldea Yanapay, a local charity helping to make a real and tangible change in the rural community of Lamay, an hour outside of Cusco.

Bancroft’s remit during its time in Peru was to help with the construction of six stand-alone bathrooms, so that families would no longer expect the river, the community’s supply of drinking water, to additionally serve as their toilet, shower and washing machine. The work was intense, laborious and difficult, but the manner in which it was approached by our pupils was nothing short of amazing. They developed skills that certainly hadn’t existed – learning to plaster, learning to use a sledgehammer or learning to mix cement – and discovered new muscles. They were tasked with digging by hand the enormous holes required for the bathroom’s septic tanks. Pupils and staff alike toiled away, literally putting their blood, sweat and tears into the work, in a way that was truly inspiring.

Inspiration was to be found in more than just the physical labour. Many were struck by the remarkable story of Yuri Valencia, the charity’s founder and director, who has dedicated almost all of his life to his project and whose kindness, yet determination to see a real change in Peru, prompted many to declare that they would definitely return to Peru to volunteer with Aldea Yanapay, whether that be with the next school trip or of their own accord.

It was an extraordinary summer for Bancroft’s and everyone involved with the trip. The combination of breath taking sightseeing, fascinating cultural discovery, no small amount of hard work and a similar amount of soul-searching made for an experience that few will ever forget. More importantly it has laid the platform for a mutually beneficial relationship between Bancroft’s and Aldea Yanapay – a relationship which we hope to see grow stronger and stronger.

Working to make a change with Aldea Yanapay in Peru was an unforgettable experience. I hope to return to Cusco in two years to work with the charity again!

Malini, L6 pupil

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