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Green-minded students 'voluntour' in Peru

group shot
Members of Cornell's chapter of WAVES for Development.

The waves off the coast of Lobitos, Peru, attract surfers from around the world. However, tourists also come to Lobitos to volunteer. Eighteen Cornell students teamed up with the nonprofit WAVES for Development, which offers “surf voluntourism” programs that promote sustainable development, to conduct two sustainable development projects.

Daniel Metcalf ’13 and Larry Slaughter ’13 founded and recruited the Cornell WAVES for Development team in January 2013. The team is responsible for constructing detailed plans for solar panels and water filtration systems that the members will install in Lobitos June 1-9.

WAVES for Development funds the Cornell team’s projects but gives them the autonomy to independently design and implement the systems. Elissa Cook ’15, a member of the business team, explains that WAVES “brings in different groups of volunteers who each work on a project that is customized to their interests and abilities.”

Cook continues, “I was attracted to join WAVES because I’ve always had an interest in green technologies.” She adds that she is eager to “explore the future of solar-panel technology through the hands-on experience of evaluating and assembling the panels in June.”

Cornell’s WAVES team recruited “individuals from various backgrounds who have a passion and interest in sustainability, philanthropy and entrepreneurship,” says Slaughter. A team of engineers has been conducting energy audits and researching the most cost effective, structurally appropriate solar panels to be installed at the WAVES headquarters’ Surf Center building.

Another team is investigating practical in-home bio-sand water filtration systems. Slaughter, who has been involved in research for sustainable design at Cornell, says, “The projects give opportunities for students to apply their skills to a worthwhile cause.”

When the Cornellians arrive in Peru, “they will be working closely with WAVES staff living in Lobitos,” says Slaughter. Cook says, “our collaborative implementation will ensure it’s a grassroots effort and will enable us to make personal connections with the locals.”

The trip won’t be only laborious work. In the spirit of WAVES for Development’s mission to promote tourism that benefits the local community, Cornellians will get a taste of what “voluntourism” is all about.

“We’ll be taking surfing lessons every morning,” Slaughter says. In addition, they will spend occasional afternoons exploring the village. This will allow the team to assess other areas in which Cornellians may be of aid. Slaughter and Metcalf hope the Cornell chapter can help WAVES achieve the goal of “extending their reach in Peru,” says Slaughter.

“WAVES needs not only engineers, but volunteers of many professional and academic backgrounds,” Slaughter says; WAVES initiatives range from microfinance to marine life protection.

Metcalf and Slaughter hope to recruit even more students for new projects next year. Slaughter believes this is possible because many Cornellians share his desire to “make an impact and improve the quality of life for people around the world.”

Students are eager for the trip. As Morgan Mills ’15 explains, “after so much planning and preparation work we can’t wait to get down there.” Whether they’ll be surfing, building or tasting the famous Peruvian ceviche – Cornellians will be making waves on their service-learning trip.

Abigail Warren ’15 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.

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John Carberry