Lending a helping hand is nothing new to Chandler resident Taylor Clouse; she’s been doing it for a while.
Usually she helps her Eagle Scout friends with their projects. But this summer, she took it to a new level — and a new country.
Clouse, a Perry High School senior and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spent two weeks of her summer helping construct a soup kitchen in Lima, Peru. She worked with a group called Humanitarian Experience for Youth – HEFY for short – that allows LDS youth to participate in humanitarian service before going on an LDS mission.
The trips act as a training step in a way.
“That’s one of our primary goals is to change the lives of these youth,” said Sally Clayton, HEFY’s executive director. “Even though we’re not an official branch of the church, our goal is to prepare and inspire them to serve full-time missions.”
When Clouse first landed in Cuzco, Peru, she was reminded instantly she was very far away from home.
“It was so unreal,” she said. “I didn’t believe I was in a different country until people started speaking Spanish to me and I didn’t understand what they were saying.”
The adjustment took a couple of days but was aided by a trip to Peru’s most famous landmark, the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu. The city was full of English-speaking tourists, making Clouse feel just a little bit more at home in a far-away country.
After two days spent sightseeing in Cuzco and Machu Picchu, it was time for Clouse and the rest of her group to get to work. They headed to Lima where their job was to help with the construction of a soup kitchen and medical center.
Mornings started early, around 5 a.m., as they would wake up and eat breakfast before heading off to the work site in nearby Monterey around 9 a.m. They worked until around 4:30 in the afternoon digging trenches, and pouring and mixing concrete for the building’s foundation before finishing the day doing things like playing soccer with local children or teaching them English.
Spending time with local children was the most rewarding part of the experience for Clouse.
“They would just hug you like you were one of them,” she said. “They would be so happy about everything you did and they didn’t even know us and they would just come up and hug you like you were their best friend. It was really cool to experience that.”
She may have the chance to experience it again if she chooses. When she turns 19 years old, she will have to option to go on a two-year LDS mission where, if she goes, she’d like to go to Brazil.
She’s still not sure if she will go on a mission, but her desire to serve others will carry on no matter what she decides.
“I just think it’s a really good experience to serve people,” she said. “It’s one of the happiest things ever.”
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