Spring Break of Service

Lauren Lambach '17, Kristen Sharkey '15 and Maddie Conely '17 in front of the house they helped build.

April 4, 2014

By Kelly O'Brien ‘15

While some struggled to decide which flip-flops to wear on the beach during spring break, public relations student Kristen Sharkey ’15 realized how fortunate she is to own more than one pair of shoes while serving the poor in Peru.

Sharkey and other volunteers from Bradley and around the country traveled to South America to build a house for a Peruvian mother and her three children as part of a mission trip organized by Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).

Waking up at 7 a.m. to work all day for a week was worth it when Sharkey saw the smiles on the faces of those she was serving.

“One day I looked out and saw everyone working and saw how happy we were making the kids and their mother,” she said.  “We were able to have such a huge impact on their lives by just showing them kindness.  The feeling you get when you know how much you helped someone is incredible.”

Sharkey says her time in Peru put a lot of things in perspective, as she witnessed the poverty so many people live in.

“I knew that people were poor, but I couldn’t actually visualize how poor they lived,” she said.  “It made me really think about how lucky I am to even have things like more than one change of clothes and running water.”

Though the people Sharkey served were poor, they were rich in compassion and gratitude for the volunteers.

“One day we were talking with the mother about this traditional Peruvian drink Chicha, and a few hours later she was carrying this bucket [of the drink] over to us,” she said.  “This woman quite literally had nothing, and she bought and made us something to show us how much she truly appreciated us. It was a wonderful thing to experience.”

Sharkey’s trip to Peru ended with spring break, but she will continue to help others in Peoria as a member of the service sorority Epsilon Sigma Alpha and the Christian Service Committee at the Newman Center on campus.

“Service has always been something I am very passionate about,” she said.  “Anyone can help others who are in need, and you don’t have to go all the way to Peru to help someone.”