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School building trip to Peru funded through tutoring program

Students in Windsor who pay for a little extra help with their studies should get an immense amount of satisfaction when they hear about how Trudy Cronkhite put their hard-earned money to use this summer.~

A fourth-year criminology student, Cronkhite takes part in a program called Students Offering Support. Students pay $10 an hour for tutoring services known as “Exam-Aid” sessions, which are conducted by fellow student volunteers and held before mid-terms and finals when they need help the most. The proceeds are used to pay for other students to travel to developing countries in Africa and Latin America where they participate in community improvement projects.

At the end of April, Cronkhite and 18 other students from the UWindsor chapter of SOS traveled to Jusccapampa, Peru, a small brick-building village on the outskirts of Cuzco, where they spent two-and-a-half weeks constructing a new elementary school.

“When we got there the kids hadn’t been to school for quite a while,” she said. “They had recently gotten a teacher, but they were teaching the kids at a women’s house. It wasn’t very structured.”

Cronkhite’s was the first such trip for the new UWindsor chapter of SOS, which has tutored more than 600 students since being launched and raised more than $23,000. She described her experience as “eye-opening.”

“I didn’t know what to expect when we got there,” she said. “It was culture shock at first but then you really start to see the similarities that we have with these people in far-off places.”

The team erected two structures while there, including a kitchen, a large open classroom and a special area dedicated for the kindergarten. She said SOS arranged for pre-delivery of the pre-fabricated structures, which they had to put together, but added that building the foundation was the most difficult part.

“We were using sticks, pick axes and our feet to mix the cement,” said Cronkhite, who had done two previous builds for Habitat for Humanity, one in Saskatchewan, the other in New Orleans after the floods. “That took a few days to get done, but once that was finished, the rest went pretty smoothly.”

Cronkhite, who will be trip coordinator for next year’s mission, said the experience was very gratifying.

“We had a lot of fun,” she said. “Just going up there and seeing the progress we made, and it was very rewarding, especially seeing the kids at the end of the day. You could tell that they really wanted the school to be built there.”

Cronkhite said she will soon begin recruiting students to participate in next year’s trip, although the destination is still to be determined.

“We’re still in the beginning stages of this, so we need a lot of people to help out,” she said. “It’s a good way to travel. You get to see a lot of the touristy things, but you feel like you’re making a difference rather than just going there and using up their resources.”

Anyone interested in participating should write to recruiting.sos@gmail.com.

Editor's note: this is one of a series of articles about students from across campus who were engaged in cool research projects and other activities during the summer.

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