Honors Student Raises Money, Supplies for Peruvian Orphanage
Brittany Garza, a junior math major and pre-physician assistant student, recently traveled to small towns or pueblos of Peru for a medical mission project. She joined medical staff and other volunteers of the Christian Emergency Relief Teams (CERT) International to provide services to the poor. They set up clinics in schools or houses, stringing up sheets across clotheslines for the makeshift clinic walls.
Garza traveled to Peru as part of her Honors Program service project, which requires 100 hours of community service. She translated from Spanish to English and shadowed the physician assistants, who provided services like antibiotics, well-woman exams and counseling.
“You could see a lot of sadness and pain, other than physical pain,” Garza said. “We would talk to them about it. They didn’t expect us to be concerned about them in that way.”
Visiting the El Arca Home for Children
In their off time, Garza and the team visited the El Arca Home for Children, an orphanage near Cusco, Peru run by Americans Bud and Laura Lenz. The Lenzes traveled there to build a church years ago and stayed to establish an orphanage, which now cares for 40 children.
Garza said the children were excited to see the visitors, and she played volleyball and soccer with the children and did praise and worship with them. She met four of the Lenz’s own children who also live at the orphanage, but all the children interacted as one large family.
“You could clearly see which ones were Peruvian and which ones have blue eyes and blond hair, but they’re all brothers and sisters,” Garza said. “They all called the Lenzes ‘Mama and Papa.’”
The Lenzes often travel to the United States to collect medical supplies, which aren’t widely available in their area of Peru.
“In Peru, there’s a lot of things they’ve stopped selling, things we buy at Walgreens, like butterfly bandages,” she said. “There, everybody has to go to a hospital or clinic to get these things, so it’s very cost prohibitive for them.”
A Classical Perspective on Service
The Honors Program is a series of small, interdisciplinary seminar classes, most of them team-taught, which emphasize Socratic discussion of original classical texts.
Dr. Terry Hall, associate professor of philosophy and director of the Honors Program, said the Honors community service project is unique because it is complemented by a seminar class with readings on social justice.
“The Catholic intellectual tradition has always emphasized what has been called the corporal acts of mercy, what we see in the service learning component,” Hall said. “The reading list in the community service project course provides the opportunity for philosophical and theological reflection upon the work and meaning of community service, and we think that deepens and broadens their experience.”
The seminar is taught by Dr. John Hittinger, professor of philosophy. Garza said she was able to apply the readings – such as works by Dorothy Day and about Mother Teresa – to herself and what she encounters in her daily life.
“They prepared me through the readings and discussion, making me face deeper questions of life, instead of just what I’m doing this weekend,” she said.
Fundraising for Medical Supplies
In addition to her mission trip, Garza collected medical supplies, such as bandages, aluminum-free deodorant and vitamins, as well as clean linen. She also organized bake sales to raise money for the orphanage, raising more than $800 by December, and she will continue to collect donations and supplies.
Garza said she hopes to return to Peru to visit the orphanage again.
“I hope to return in the next year or two,” she said. “I want to be able to give them supplies before I travel there again.”
To support Garza’s fundraising efforts or donate first aid supplies, contact Garza at email@example.com or mail to: Gateway Missions, P.O. Box 40, Hockley, Texas 77447.