Laura Bagamery '08
In the summer of 2006, Josh Falk and I spent two weeks in Chiapas, Mexico with the Perez family, whose youngest son, Orlando's, education is sponsored by the club Chiapas Connection. During our stay, we spent our time doing farm chores for the family, chopping wood and tending to the needs of the coffee trees that the extended family harvests and sells as free trade coffee beans. Because it is Orlando who must usually perform such chores, he cannot get a summer job as most men his age do to pay for college. Also, his family cannot afford to hire additional help during his absence. Thanks to our efforts, both this past summer and now, and through the money we still raise at school, we were able to aid the family and to help provide Orlando with his family's first university education. He hopes to find a job involving computers. Our time spent in Chiapas was absolutely incredible. By extending our schoolwork on the Tzotzil language and through our more traditional fundraising during the school year, we were able to learn something essential about hard work and dedication that extends far beyond the classroom.
Laura Daigneau '07
I went to the British Virgin Islands where I lived on a catamaran for three weeks with nine other teens and three counselors. We traveled to different islands performing different community service projects, such as repainting the entrance to a church, beach and city clean-ups, mangrove reforestation, playing with local children who were in summer school, and, most exciting of all, catching turtles for research purposes. My favorite part of the trip was getting to meet the local people who helped us with the projects; they helped me see a new perspective of life. Overall, each of us did over one-hundred hours of volunteer service.
Joshua Falk '08
Our international service project took place in Chiapas, Mexico. The project involved distributing used clothing acquired at Shady Side Academy to members of a local Mayan community and then assisting the community with various tasks, including work with the coffee plants. We spent eleven days in San Cristobal de las Casas, a city in Chiapas . Each day, we traveled to San Pedro Chenalhó, a rural agrarian community in Chiapas . After our work, we spent afternoons studying Mayan culture and Tzotzil, the language spoken in the community, with a native speaker. I would like to thank Mr. Parkin for this amazing opportunity and I hope the project will continue to benefit Chiapas and the Shady Side Academy community.
Vijay Kedar '08
The Parkin Fellowship allowed me the wonderful opportunity to experience an environmental and community service expedition to Costa Rica through the organization Eco-Teach. I traveled to San Jose , Atenas, Alajuela, Pacuare, Fortuna, Arenal, and Puntarenas. The primary focus of the trip was to help in the conservation of the Leatherback turtles. Consequently, most of the time was spent at the turtle reserve, a turtle conservation establishment in the Costa Rican rainforest. During the days, I, along with my group, cleaned debris from the beach, constructed walls for nearby homes, and engaged in a number of community service projects. At night, we traversed the beach in search of Leatherback turtle eggs. Once found, we transported them to our turtle hatchery: a stretch of the beach that had been cordoned off for the safe hatching of turtles. Once the turtles had safely hatched, we released them into the water. In this way, the turtles were safe from predators such as birds, crabs, and crocodiles. Aside from the time spent at the reserve, I have a number of memorable experiences including counting scarlet macaws for an official parrot conservation survey and zip lining through the rainforest canopy at 300 feet above the ground. Throughout the trip, I was able to observe the immense Costa Rican biodiversity including howler monkeys, poison-dart frogs, spiny lizards, exotic butterflies and an array of plant species. Furthermore, I became immersed in the Costa Rican culture, living with Costa Rican families, and learning a little Spanish in the process. Overall, my trip was an adventure that I will remember for the rest of my life. I sincerely appreciate the generosity of Mr. Parkin, who made the trip possible, and am very grateful to him. I have been changed by my experiences in Costa Rica and hope that other students will have the same opportunity in the future.
Mara Leff '07
As I walked along the river that ran through the small Kenyan village with my host sister Ayeiko, I gazed at her in awe. Her gorgeous skin glowed in the setting sun and the silhouette of her perfect posture and delicate neck stood out against the red and orange sky. On top of her head rested a large bucket of water. She walked barefoot along the water's rocky edge, never faltering, while the bucket remained steadfast atop her head. She asked if I would like to try and apprehensively, I accepted. I hoisted the bucket to the top of my head but could barely make it a few steps before I had to grab it as it began to fall. I handed the bucket back to her, and with great poise and grace she walked the rest of the way back. My trip to Kenya was filled with moments like this. Living in a village in western Kenya and constructing a classroom for five weeks challenged me to look inside myself to find those small things in life that I seldom appreciate. Staying with a family and giving up my everyday luxuries was incredibly rewarding. My time in eastern Africa truly made me appreciate my life and the privileges that I have been fortunate enough to have. Along with the other eighteen teenagers in my group, we were able to create a learning environment for over fifty children. I saw what one person could do in a community. I now understand the importance of perseverance; one person can truly make a difference. Memories of my trips to the river with Ayeiko will stay with me forever. Her bright smile when we unveiled the classroom, and then her tears when we departed, are images that I will never forget. With incredible gratitude to Mr. Parkin, I thank him for giving me an opportunity to make a small difference in the village.
Carlie Marous '07
During this trip, I had the opportunity to travel abroad to Guatemala for one week with a group called SurgiCorps International to participate in a medical mission trip. I spent a day in Patzun, Guatemala with a group of approximately eighty young orphans ranging in age from three-weeks-old to sixteen-years old. I helped out by doing small jobs around the orphanage in addition to helping the children with their English homework and playing games with them in their free time. But the majority of my trip took place in the city of Antigua, Guatemala where I worked in the operating rooms in a local hospital aiding Pittsburgh-based plastic surgeons and general surgeons. These surgeons, for the most part, treated and corrected cleft pallets, cleft lips, burn scars, gallbladder disease, and hernias. My duties consisted of taking pre-op and post-op photography of our patients and their wounds, running instruments to and from operating rooms, compiling medical files, and assisting doctors with whatever needed to be done. I had the amazing opportunity to scrub in with one of the doctors on two of her cases; one being the removal of extraneous digits on a patient's hands and feet, and the other case correcting a severe burn scar which involved taking skin grafts. In these two cases, I was the physician's main assistant and I was accountable for handing the doctor instruments, blotting, and assisting with the stitching of the wound. This trip was incredibly eye-opening, not only because I was exposed to such a large range of medical work, but also because I had the opportunity to react with an entirely different and unique type of culture in a context that, here in the U. S. , would never been possible. These people were in such dire need, as Guatemala is a third-world country, and had no financial means to correct their potentially harmful medical conditions. By the end of the week, my medical team had treated roughly eighty patients and brought many smiles to loving family members. Medicine is a field that I am very interested in and I am strongly considering it especially after such an incredible volunteer trip.
Elizabeth Modoono '08
I was awarded a Parkin Fellowship to perform community service in Costa Rica for four weeks. I went through an organization called Putney Student Travel. I lived with sixteen other high school students from around the U.S. I was the only person from Pennsylvania. Our main service project was to help construct a bridge over a river in the small village of Zaragosa . This task was very labor-intensive and took us the entire four weeks to complete the job. Costa Rican construction workers supervised the project and we provided them with labor. We had to move large rocks from the site, shovel out dirt, and carry away bags of dirt on our backs. We also mixed cement by hand and filled buckets of cement for the Costa Rican construction workers. At the end of the four weeks, we completed two cement end supports for the bridge. The work definitely was hard and challenging, but also very rewarding. I really felt that I helped to make a difference in this Costa Rican village. The Parkin Fellowship provided me with an opportunity to take a risk, to do something by myself, and to grow as a person. It was an amazing experience, and one that I will never forget.