CIRCA San Francisco School by Davis McHenry, Jack Olsen, Jason Teetsel and Chance Rhodes

CIRCA, a Jesuit organization founded by Father Carlos Ponzo, S.J., is a large network of 48 schools, eight orphanages, two clinics and 23 parishes. the CIRCA schools together have more than 17,000 students.

Father Ponzo’s family immigrated to Peru from Italy when he was 18-years-old. For ten years he worked selling used items. When his business failed he decided to take on a new life as a Jesuit priest. After initially rejecting the religious life, Ponzo came back and dedicated himself to the poor people. He began building schools in poor communities, working alongside others to create what is now the CIRCA organization. (CIRCA information provided by Deacon Joe Stickney).

When we first arrived at the school, getting off the vans we were greeted with Peruvian and American flags. Both countries represented in unity between the sea of excited and smiling faces. Upon entering the gates there were three students with small white plastic pipes, holding them up against their shoulders like guards with their swords, guarding the gate as we entered it. The principal immediately came up to us and, in Spanish, began thanking us for the past work Brophy has contributed into the making of their school. We were quickly seated into the back of the outdoor soccer/basketball court, the small stands in front of us full of green and white uniforms. Beginning with a prayer, the different grades then gave presentations varying from dances, to marches, and speeches. However, not all grades got to go. The final dance being cancelled due to technological issues. We felt very honored and appreciated by the community but most of us were just itching to get to work.

We were tasked with continuing the work of Broncos who came before us. This task was to continue extending the perimeter wall in order to protect the school and officially claim the land for the school. We were told that if there wasn’t a wall around a property, someone could just come in and claim it as their own.

We were divided up into groups. About half of the group was shovelling sand and rocks into buckets to make cement. It was hard work to keep the dirt contained into the pile. However the hardest job of all was carrying and dumping the buckets of dirt and rock into the cement mixer. They were so heavy that most people could not even lift them. The next step of the process was to hold wheelbarrows and take the cement from the mixer into the ̈Ditch ̈ (Cordova). The Ditch consisted of a dug out area full of wet cement and rebar, where the foundation of the wall was being laid. This work taught us what it means to truly serve others. Despite being dirty and tired taught, we were able to find a sense of satisfaction and purpose in our tough labor. After hours of backbreaking work, the schools generosity was apparent when they provided us lunch, where Brophy students ate alongside proven architects and workers. Finally, the students of St. Fransancisco Javier treated us to the dance we had missed at the very beginning of the day.

The next day, most students went straight to construction. We were all very anxious to get to work and put our hands in the dirt. However, one group was tasked with entertaining the forty or so children in the classroom. This presented a different kind of challenge, as none of the children or the teachers were able to speak English. So we decided to try and play some games. We first, unsuccessfully, introduced and explained ̈heads up seven up, ̈ which soon descended into the kids running around and trying not to get picked. Once we got the class back under control, we were able to play ̈Simon Says ̈ and ̈Hangman ̈ in Spanish. We had a lot of fun playing with the kids but we were excited to get to work with the rest of the group.

The work that we did consisted of poring cement, digging a trench, making roads, repairing paths, and pushing heavy wheel barrels of rocks up a hill. After the first day, many of us were very sore, but we were determined to finish our work to the best of our ability. One of the most important lessons we learned as a group was to work together through the pain. Like Señor Cordova said, “Nothing in life that is easy is worth while.”



8 thoughts on “CIRCA San Francisco School by Davis McHenry, Jack Olsen, Jason Teetsel and Chance Rhodes

  1. Quite the wall you guys are building. Obviously hard work. Good to read about what you are doing and why and for who …. Also enjoyed reading about and seeing the pictures of the beach too.

  2. I’m so excited to read and catch up with everything all of you have been doing. What an amazing diverse group of activities. They tick every box of what our family believed this trip would be! Can’t wait to read more about your adventures and the photos have been perfect and give us a little taste of what it’s been like for all of you.

    Safe travels and looking to lots more updates.

  3. Correcting missing words in my closing….Safe travels and looking FORWARD to A LOT more updates 🙂

  4. Great work on the wall, guys!
    You made significant progress.
    And by the way- the Raptors won it all tonight:-)

  5. Senor Cordova, Mrs. Venberg and Mrs. DeLozier – thank you for being away from your own families for so long to the benefit of every young man on this trip.

    Every time we see notification of a blog post we can’t wait to read every detail and hear all of your wonderful insight! Continue to keep your hearts, minds, and eyes open to each other and to all you encounter. No doubt you will remember all for the rest of your lives. In the meantime, know that you are missed and that your group is prayed for with every step of this incredible journey.

  6. How many lives will you positively touch? From the stray dog to young children and all the people that will walk on the path or touch the wall you have built, you have touched so many lives and are leaving a place better than you have found it. What a blessed opportunity for you all and it is so beautiful to see that you are taking time to process and reflect on your experiences that are growing your hearts and minds (and muscles). We are praying for your health, safety, development and the guidance provided by Snr. Cordova, Mrs. DeLozier and Mrs. Venberg. PS missing you terribly and loving the wonderful pictures with all your smiling faces! XOXOXO

  7. I am quite sure that being tasked with standing in front of a group of 40 children and teachers who don’t speak English and figuring out how to entertain everybody was way more terrifying than any kind of manual labor you boys have done! The “heads up seven up” details were hilarious. You persevered though and successfully created fun for the children. Well done!
    I can only imagine how sore you all were after building that wall. Sore arms? Sore backs? Blisters? Probably all three!
    One last quote to ponder (Mother Teresa again) as you head into the final days of your immersion journey:
    “I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?’

  8. I’m sure Jesuit Father Pozzo is smiling in heaven over the “sweat equity” you have put into one of his schools. When they did not have wheelbarrows in his day (Yes, it seems he lived before the invention of the wheel), he carried the sand and gravel in his cassock.

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