Lauren Kolenda ’24, Staff Writer

For the second edition of “The Peru Diaries”, I had the honor of interviewing Sister Annette Pelletier about her time missioned in Peru and her experience taking IU students to Peru on mission trips with Sister Rose Mulligan and Sister Mary Henrich. Thank you to Sister Annette for taking the time to chat about all things Peru!

Q: How long were you missioned in Peru?

A: I spent 11 ½ years missioned in Peru, including a year and a half in Chile. 

Q: What areas did you serve in Peru?

A: The first time I was in Peru I worked as a grade school teacher at Saint Anthony’s School (Collegio San Antonio) in Callao, Peru.  The second time I was an administrator at Fe y Alegria 37 in Montenegro which was a shanty town on the outskirts of Lima. The school ranged from Pre-K to high school and had about 1600 students. The students lived in severe economic poverty. They had no running water or electricity and were undernourished. I lived with three other sisters and we all worked in the school. We served the children and their families.

Q: How difficult was it to learn Spanish and adjust to the culture?

A: It was difficult, but I lived with Sisters who were very understanding. It was hard because no one in the school spoke English, but I did learn from my students. It took 3 years to become fluent, went to a language school, and learned on the job. I was shocked by the poverty but also by the wealth. There was very little middle class at the time but it has gotten better. After some time I adjusted and now I feel like I am part of both U.S. and Peruvian cultures.

Q: What are some of the unique aspects of Peruvian culture? Any “culture shocks”?

A: Something unique about Peruvian culture is their love of dancing. Every region has its own dance. They use the dances as a way to tell stories. Peruvian food is absolutely delicious. They use a lot of rice and spices and sometimes they add bits of meat and it tasted amazing. They are truly people of the heart. A culture shock for me was how all of Peru where I was missioned is desert. In fact, at the school where I served as principal, the kindergarten students had never seen the color green or any trees. We were able to raise some money to plant a few trees and a patch of grass to be able to give them that experience. 

Sister Annette with students in Peru in 2018. (Photo credit: Sister Annette)

Q: How long have you been taking IU students to Peru?

A: I started taking students to Peru in 2014. In my first year, we took 8 students. I’ve taken students down every year until 2018 and will be taking 9 students to Peru in May.  

Q: What makes the IU Peru Mission Trip special?

A: The bonding between the IU students and the children makes this trip so special. The children get to meet real people from the U.S., not just what they experience through films and TV. The students get an opportunity to be part of our IHM mission and the IU mission by investing their time and money to serve those who are in great need, as well as, step out of American culture. 

Q: What kind of work do the students do in Peru?

A: In the past, students have tutored and played with the kids, helped build retreat houses and schools, and assisted with other tasks such as cleaning and painting.  

Q: What is your favorite part about taking students to Peru?

A: The opportunity to get to know students better and to witness how an “out-of-home culture” opens their hearts and minds to a truly global world.

Q: What would you say to a student who is thinking about going on the trip?

A: Just do it! Take a chance, and be brave, this is a truly an experience of a lifetime! Every student who has participated in this trip has said it is truly life-changing.