Columbus Catholic students ready for school trip to orphanage in Lima
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Deb Kennedy, a longtime Spanish teacher in the local Catholic school system, will soon be leading students to Lima, Peru.
The trip is a chance for the students to apply their language skills in a Spanish-speaking environment. Students will also be able to make a difference in the lives of others as the trip’s destination is an orphanage that houses 60 children. While there, Kennedy said, “We will do whatever work project they need us to do, and we will put on plays in Spanish and English for the children.”
The trip kicks off on Aug. 4, and the travelers will return to Marshfield on Aug. 14.
Kennedy teaches third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders as well as high school students. A previous excursion Kennedy took to Guatemala with a number of high school students forever impacted her view of the importance of foreign language trips.
“That was a life changing trip for me. Several of the kids that were on that trip are now bilingual lawyers, bilingual doctors, bilingual pharmacists. There’s something about mission and working with people in utter poverty, but seeing how happy they are, that helps you to re-evaluate your own life,” Kennedy said.
This year’s trip is for students in ninth through 12th grades but will include a couple recent graduates.
Marissa Immerfall, a junior at Columbus Catholic High School, said fundraising to afford the trip has been a lengthy process but was well worth the effort.
“(I thought) it would be cool to go to a different country and learn about their culture, and I would love to help other people, obviously,” Immerfall said regarding her anticipation of the trip. “I’m so excited to finally get to go.”
Running bake sales and brat barns and staffing a local demolition derby were some of the things students did to earn money for the trip.
Kennedy said she wants students to gain confidence in their language skills as a result of the excursion.
“I hope they gain a bigger comfort zone using their Spanish, to know that their Spanish does not need to be perfect in order for people to understand them,” Kennedy said. “The more you’re willing to use the language and not worry about mistakes, the better you’re going to learn.”
Immerfall has been enrolled in Spanish classes since elementary school. Coupling that with a recent trip to Mexico, she feels confident she will be able to converse effectively in Lima.
“I feel pretty prepared to go,” Immerfall said. She later added, “I just want to help these people. … Hopefully I can come away with being happy with what I have and realize how blessed I am here.”
While in Lima the students will interact with the children at the orphanage, even playing with them on a playground that Columbus helped finance.
Columbus students will also bring a number of gifts for the children. The orphanage has a birthday closet so that children can pick out gifts on their special day. Immerfall and another student went shopping to help restock that closet. Sidewalk chalk, Legos, and baseball equipment are among the items that the orphanage will receive.
Elementary students Kennedy teaches collected “gently used” shoes for the children of the orphanage. Kennedy said the students have donated 251 pairs of shoes total. Vitamins and over-the-counter medicine will be brought to the orphanage as well.
Kennedy said being able to teach students both in elementary school and then to see them again at the high school level is a special experience.
“You grow with them. You see them get rid of their shyness. You see them through their braces and through their first dates and their first prom,” Kennedy said. “You see all phases of them.”
Now Kennedy will have the chance to see her students gain a new experience, serving others in a foreign country, and implementing all they have learned from her.