Both of my grandparents were born in Lima, Peru. They immigrated to the United States in order to further their educations and to have more opportunities in the future. However, they return to Lima ever winter to spend time with family and friends. One day in March, I called up my grandmother to catch up with her about what was going on in our respective lives. I told her about my annoyance at homework and struggles with my college decision. Then, when I asked her how she and my grandfather were doing, I realized that my problems were insignificant. My grandmother told me that she and my grandfather had not had water for three days. They had been drinking pop and juices because there was no water available in the city. When I voiced my shock, she realized that I had not heard what happened. My grandmother told me that Peru had suffered massive flooding that caused disastrous mudslides.
A combination of La Niña, climate change, and bad luck caused torrential rains that hit all over Peru and the surrounding countries. According to Nicholas Casey and Andrea Zarate of the New York Times, “mudslides have destroyed 14,000 homes, left 150,000 homeless and killed more than 100 people” (6 April 2017). The water services were interrupted in dozens of cities, and hundreds of thousands were affected by the storms. When I learned what Peru was going through, I immediately decided that I wanted to help.
As the Vice President of Valparaiso High School's branch of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica, I partnered with the Spanish teachers of VHS in order to organize a fundraiser. Each Spanish class had an empty milk jug that they tried to fill with change, and students could lower other classes’ scores by putting bills in other classes’ jugs. The winning class would get a pizza party, and the funds raised would be sent to the Peruvian American Medical Society. The Spanish students were excited to take advantage of this opportunity to help. Senior Noah Komoscar explained, “We are lucky enough to live in a community with enough resources that we can share our good fortune with others, such as the Peruvians who have been impacted by recent floods, as our duty to fellow communities around the world!” Through the course of a week, each class competed with the others to be the champion. At the end of the competition, VHS raised $1,000. This money will be used to provide medical attention, food, clean water, and infrastructural assistance.
At the end of the day, I was incredibly proud of our school. The teachers assisted me in getting administrative approval, allowed me to present this cause to several classes, and encouraged their students to donate. However, it was my fellow students who truly shone. The found coins wherever they could and donated not only their spare change but also five, 10, and even 20 dollar bills. Every person was ready to support Peru. As Donna Ferguson put it, “With small acts of generosity and kindness, the ripple effect begins and we are closer to world peace.” Every person was excited about our cause and helped in any way they could. The Spanish students of VHS came together to provide help in a time of need. This experience showed me that Valparaiso is a place that will always support others during their struggles. Valparaiso is not just a place to live, it is a community focused bettering our world.
If you are interested in donating, click here for more information.
Marisa Johnson, VHS ‘17
Special thanks to Sal Muffoletto, Robert Cespedes, Cathy Sparks, Jose Rodea, Jennifer Raupp, Maliani Nellessen, and every teacher and student who supported this effort.