St. Augustine Prep Students Help Residents of Peru

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Peru St. Augustine Prep Students Trip 2017 Photo

Every year, a group of students from St. Augustine School travels with Mrs. McSweeny to Villa El Salvador, Peru to do service at a small daycare facility and its surrounding community.

BUENA, N.J. — Ten high school students from St. Augustine Preparatory School traveled to Peru for 12 days in June and completed service projects in Villa El Salvador, an area under development on the outskirts of Lima, the capital city.

Under the guidance of Helen McSweeny, St. Augustine Spanish teacher, the students bought and planted fruit trees and edible plants in a below poverty neighborhood and set in motion the groundwork for the installation of telephone, television and internet service to a local daycare center.

Vito Acosta, alumni of 2016 Peru Service Adventure, returned for a second year as an apprentice in all facets of the trip, itinerary, budget, lodging, guides, tours and communication with Mrs. McSweeny’s contacts in Peru.

"It felt great to help build a home last year and make friends with the locals in Peru," said Acosta. "I wanted to make those connections again and do something that would have a continuing positive impact.”

Every year, a group of students from St. Augustine School travels with Mrs. McSweeny to Villa El Salvador, Peru to do service at a small daycare facility and its surrounding community. They have built houses, created gardens, taught English to children, and shared live classic folk tunes from the United States with adults and children.

This year students also brought books with dated and signed personal messages on the inside cover that they read to the children and left as gifts. There are always a few intense games of pickup soccer. The St. Augustine Prep yearly trip has become a tradition and, although the students change each year there is a growing bond between South Jersey and Peru.

This year, student Vito Acosta led a fundraising effort which raised over $1,700 for the service trip. He created a page on his website,, which explained the trip, the students’ mission, why donations were needed, and how one could donate. He worked with the St. Augustine Preparatory business office to use the school’s support page where people could donate directly to the trip’s account. The students also sold brownies in the cafeteria during exam week.

“With this money, we paid for lodging and transportation, and I negotiated the price of fruit trees for the Villa," said Acosta.

"We had money left over so I asked the daycare owner what the children could use. Villa is economically poor and the daycare did not have a telephone, television or internet service.

The owner, Zoila Lagos Loa, said she was told it wasn’t possible to bring the wiring to their building. I went to the local provider and discovered that wiring wasn’t necessary- a satellite could do the job- so we paid for the installation and six months use of a satellite on their building. They can now have a telephone, television, and internet. We plan to expand our efforts by setting them up with technology such as iPads as well as aiding other areas.”

Luka Villani, who organized the fruit tree planting, said, “We planted around 44 trees for the community of Villa. Going door to door, we asked what type of tree was best for the family and then planted it. Everyone was very kind and appreciative. We are all excited for the change the trees will have on Villa.”

Acosta had the opportunity to interview Mrs. Loa and other workers and recorded Mrs. Loa giving a tour of the daycare. To view these and for more information about the students’ service, visit

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