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Students step up to make a difference in Peruvian towns during study week

By Antoinette Mercurio

Alternative Spring Break

Danielle Dye, third from left, takes a moment to smile with teammates on last year's Alternative Spring Break trip to Panama. From left: Breanna Purdie, Caitlin Johnson, Dye and Asma Hamid. Photo courtesy: Danielle Dye.

Fifteen Ryerson students are venturing into the unknown and travelling with a purpose during study week.

The Alternative Spring Break (ASB) team is on its way to Peru, setting out to help restore a school in the community of Urubamba. The students will be working with Nexos Voluntarios, a Peruvian non-profit organization and will be assisting in infrastructure initiatives. The team will eventually hike uphill to another mountain town to continue their volunteer efforts and learn about Peruvian culture.

This is the third year ASB has gone beyond Canadian borders to help with community relief. Previous study week trips have been to Guatemala and Panama. But this year's journey is slightly longer, with the group going for two weeks, returning on Feb. 20, at the end of Ryerson's study week. ASB participants have been receiving Spanish lessons once a week for the past few months.

And that's the cornerstone of ASB's mission: to break cultural barriers and learn to understand the perspectives of people from around the world. Danielle Dye, ASB co-team leader, maintains that the work of ASB isn't only about international development in the conventional sense of building schools and infrastructure but also focusing on cultivating relationships and establishing trust with villagers. That's why the excursion was extended to two weeks, to allow for extra time to connect.

"I think the really important part of this trip is meeting the locals  and learning more about their lives and their experiences," said Dye, a third-year arts and contemporary studies student.

Many of the students are from the Faculty of Arts but others are from the Faculty of Communication & Design and Ted Rogers School of Management. Three broadcast journalism students are also attending, filming the journey for a documentary.

To follow the students on their travels, check out their blog at asbryerson.org.

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