Jacob’s New Groove: The Value of Service in Peru
At ASG, we give priority to enriching the lives of others. So much so that service is one of our core values. In their personal lives, several ASG employees devote free time to serving people in communities around the world.
“I love it that so many of our employees dedicate several weeks of their lives to mission trips,” said Onna Koeneman. “It shows that service is a personal value.” ASG Engineer Logan Metzger and Engineering Consultant Kevin Carnes have shared their personal time to travel on mission trips and help others. So has Technical Project Manager Jacob Newkirk, who recently visited Peru to help the Quechua people install water filters at schools.
In this Q&A, Jacob shares his experience.
What did you do on your trip?
We spent most of our time in the Cotahuasi Canyon in Southern Peru. We visited a different village each morning to set up water filters in schools. The village was near the rim of the canyon and surrounded by terraced farms. There was a stream running through the village that supplied water for drinking and farming. We provided the school with a water filter, instructed the teachers how to operate it and spent some time with the kids. After we finished working at the school, we drove to the village square to meet with women who had recently lost their husbands to provide them with food and other basic supplies. In the afternoons, we hiked to waterfalls and scenic viewpoints.
On our way to the canyon, we stayed at a hostel called La Casa de Melgar, which was built in the 18th century. We also visited Santa Catalina, a 16th century monastery and a 17th century cathedral.
Why did you choose Peru?
I love to learn about the history and cultures of other people, and I’ve always been interested in Central and South American cultures. I speak some Spanish, which makes trips to those countries easier. Our church sponsors missionaries in several Spanish-speaking countries. I visited a medical mission in Guatemala City in 2019, and this trip was to visit missionaries working with the Quechua people in Cotahuasi.
How does the trip relate to your experience at ASG?
The work our team did in Cotahuasi did not involve project management or engineering, but our mission related to our values at ASG because the focus was to serve others. Like many engineers in the medical device industry, I accepted my role at ASG because I wanted to use my time, education and skills to help other people. I have so much to be grateful for. I’ve never had to worry about having clean water. If I can give up a week of my time and provide clean water for people who don’t have that, that’s a trade I’ll make every time.
What was your most memorable experience?
My most memorable day in Cotahuasi started with a visit to the local school. After that, we drove to the village square to meet with women who had recently lost their husbands to provide them with food and other basic supplies.
While most of the team ate lunch on the plaza, a local named Camilo and I set out to find the widows. We found one woman in a garden near a house that the missionaries had recently helped construct. She led us along a narrow canal down farming terraces to find other women who were moving rocks to change the flow of the canal to irrigate alfalfa. We helped them move the rocks before heading back up to the plaza.
Once we were back with the team, we gave the widows the supplies they needed. Two of the widows invited us into their home to sing Spanish hymns together. When we left, the widows sang us a traditional Quechua song.
What would you like to do if you could go back?
Teaching English could be another service opportunity in the future. The teachers and kids in many of the villages expressed interest in learning English. They also really enjoyed looking at pictures of themselves from my camera.
Cotahuasi Canyon is over twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, and there are several 20,000-foot peaks nearby. I’d love to go back and spend more time capturing the natural beauty of Peru. Because this trip was primarily focused on installing water filters, I wasn’t able to spend much time photographing the canyon and plateau. I wouldn’t mind spending more time petting Alpacas either!
How do your personal values tie into the work you did in Peru?
It’s a helpful reminder that our way of life in the U.S. is not the only way. Trips like this are also an excellent opportunity to practice humility, to be outside of my comfort zone and to put other people’s needs before my own.
Interested in working for a company that values what’s important to you? Learn more about careers at ASG.