In the center of town is the remarkable Sun Temple, built with stonework considered second only to that of Machu Picchu. Many students identify their time coming to know and understand their host families as the most significant aspect of the experience for them—and many maintain relationships with these families over the years. Everybody’s Spanish improves, and some students even return with an impressive number of words and phrases in Quechua, still spoken in Ollantaytambo.
After the disastrous flooding and landslides north of Machu Picchu in 1999, the government relocated some families to a stretch of land beside the Urubamba River, Anccopacha, about three miles outside of Ollantaytambo. Similarly, in 2010 new flood victims arrived to this undesirable stretch of unfertile land between the train tracks and the river. Residents strengthen their own sense of community by working with each other and with Groton on improvement projects of their choosing. For example, Groton students have helped the community build a bus stop and a flight of stairs down a rocky, muddy slope into the settlement. They also have painted the primary school and outfitted it with furniture and playground equipment. Most recently, Groton students helped design and construct an 18-by-30-meter concrete playing field, moving nearly 10,000 stones in the process!
In addition to building relationships with people in Anccopacha and helping them strengthen communal bonds, Groton projects have enriched Anccopacha’s relationship with the municipality of Ollantaytambo. The municipality allowed the installation of speed bumps along a stretch of dangerous road—something never before allowed, despite a handful of deaths along the stretch each year. Most recently, the municipality used its bulldozers to flatten the area used to build Anccopacha’s community space/sports court. Perhaps there is no better lesson for our students to see directly—how generosity begets generosity.
Groton's Global Education Opportunity (GEO) to Peru occurs every other year, alternating with the GEO to the Dominican Republic.