East Dallas-based nonprofit gives students the chance to see the world and make in impact

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Did you know guinea pigs are a Peruvian delicacy?

Neither did 10 volunteers — eight high school students and two teachers — before they flew across the equator to build a guinea pig shelter in Cusco, Peru, in 2014, on a trip facilitated by East Dallas neighbor Catherine Greenberg through her nonprofit Bright Light Volunteers (BLV).

The trip was life-changing for some of the students, who spent their time in the Inca Empire epicenter doing service work for the indigenous community. The students helped with construction preparations for a daycare center in one of Lima’s shanty towns, and made repairs to a distressed school room, and then built a guinea pig pen in a rural town outside of Cusco. The students learned that many locals’ livelihood is dependent upon farming guinea pig, and they had the opportunity to help sustain the community income by excavating and building a foundation for future commerce.

Greenberg knows first-hand how impactful a high school mission trip can be, which is why she founded Bright Light Volunteers. With BLV, she aims to do more than just guild tourists to exotic destinations. “Volunteering abroad provides an opportunity to experience the world in a much deeper context than traditional tourism,” she explains. “It facilitates a cross-cultural awareness and understanding and promotes positive change in our global community.”

Greenberg graduated Magna Cum Laude from SMU with a degree in International Studies and Cultural Anthropology specializing in Latin America. She has two children, 13 and 15, who have both accompanied her on international service programs, and she is the CEO of Howell Real Estate and current Treasurer of Good Local Markets (formerly White Rock Local Market).

The teachers who travel with BLV are sponsored, and then they recruit students from middle school to college level to be a part of the service excursion.

BLV has a Spring Break venture planned for 2016 for a group of volunteer students and one teacher to travel to Greece for service work in Rhodes. They are also waiting to award one educator plus two students sponsored spots on a trip to Ghana, where the group of 10 would construct wells and schools, or to Costa Rica where they would tend a permaculture farm, or to Cambodia to teach English.

Does that sound like something a teacher you know would enjoy? Nominations are being accepted via email (info@brightlightvolunteers.org) or on the BLV Facebook page through May 28. Each nomination should include the most adventurous thing the nominated teacher has done with their students and one reason why this teacher would make a great international volunteer leader (150 words or less); images are encouraged.

The selected teacher will then choose two students to receive the two remaining accompanying sponsored spots. The sponsored spots include all travel expenses plus insurance. The winning teacher will be announced on the BLV Facebook page on May 29.

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