Ahwatukee resident Morgan Smith has always shown a desire for humanitarian work, and throughout the summer, she fueled that desire by spending two weeks helping the poor in Peru.

Smith, a senior at Desert Vista High School, helped build a soup kitchen and a medical center in Peru through Humanitarian Experience for Youth, a nonprofit service organization oriented with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that offers humanitarian expeditions for 16- through 19-year-olds.

She was accompanied by 18 other teens from across the U.S., and stayed in Peru from June 18 to July 5.

Her daily work consisted of digging, mixing cement, laying brick and serving the people around the area.

Despite the grueling manual labor, Smith said it was an enjoyable experience to lend a hand to people who were less fortunate than her.

“It was really a life-changing experience to see what it was like in a different country and realize how fortunate I am,” she said. “It was a very humbling experience because even though these people had nothing, they were still happy and grateful for all that we did.”

Along with constructing the soup kitchen and medical center, Smith also spent a majority of her time with the nearby youths keeping them entertained with different activities.

During the weekends, Smith explored the cities of Cusco and Lima, visited Machu Picchu and swam with sea lions.

Smith said the trip helped heighten her interest toward humanitarian work and plans to join the Peace Corps after high school.

“I wanted to see if this was something that I would be interested in,” she said. “The best part was getting to know the locals there because we were really immersed in the culture. We got to meet a lot of the people there and just seeing the difference we really made in their lives was a meaningful experience for me.”

Maggie Smith, Morgan’s mother, said the trip was a way for her daughter to be appreciative of what she has, and to give back to those who were in need.

“I think it was important for her to see people who don’t have, and by serving them, she was able to develop a love for them,” she said. “Some of the most touching stories she told me were about the children and women in the area who were so thankful for what they were doing.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dochoa@ahwatukee.com.

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