Sophomore journalism student Abbie Newton went on a journey of a lifetime, running nearly a marathon a day for six consecutive days through eight diverse ecosystems in southeast Peru while educating and working to inspire young kids to reach beyond their perceived limits.
The 150-mile expedition, sponsored by global organization impossible2Possible (i2P), took Newton from the top of the Andes Mountains at an elevation of 11,000 feet down to the Peruvian Amazon through forest trails and rivers.
Newton, who had been training for the trip since August, was one of five student ambassadors selected for the journey from hundreds of students from around the world.
"Coming in, I was more focused on the running because you are training for three months; it's constantly in your head, but it ended up being so much more," Newton said. "As we worked to inspire others, I can honestly say I have never felt more empowered and excited to embrace life and strive to better the world around me. I am grateful for the opportunity to immerse myself in a unique culture while being a member of such a dedicated team."
The i2P Expedition Team guided the eight-day mission, which took place Nov. 5-12.
Throughout the journey, the group interacted with K-12 teachers and students from around the world and created a curriculum for the students that focused on ecosystems to help build awareness.
"The whole mission was to inspire young kids by challenging ourselves mentally and physically," Newton said. "Kids from anywhere in the world could subscribe to what we were doing, and we were constantly uploading video."
About 10,000 kids subscribed to the project.
As the group traveled through each ecosystem, they looked at the human impact and human service the ecosystem provides. Some of the topics included rainforests, gold mining, coca fields, mountains, oxygen, water, potatoes, mahogany trees, quinine and mosquitoes.
"We learned a lot about the importance of biodiversity, for instance, we went to a village and talked about potatoes. In Peru, there's more than 300 varieties of potatoes, but in the last four years, 30 of these varieties have declined, and so it was really interesting to learn how climate change and different things are affecting the biodiversity in Peru and different countries around the world," Newton said.
As part of this experience, the group met a woman who operates a potato museum.
"She is trying to preserve this biodiversity and she has all these potatoes," Newton said. "In America, we have maybe two different potatoes we can choose from in the supermarket, but in Peru, they've got hundreds. It's little things like that that really open your eyes to the importance of preserving the world around us."
Other activities included collecting Quinine from the bark of a Cinchona tree, illustrating the relationship between human health and Earth's biodiversity. Quinine was the first effective treatment to be synthesized to treat malaria. The group also visited a coca plantation, observed how various products are produced from coca and considered the plant-s value on health and well-being.
Each day began at about 5 or 6 a.m., with the student ambassadors running about four hours in the morning, starting at 8 a.m., stopping for lunch and to videoconference with the K-12 classrooms and interact with the local community. They would run for another four hours in the afternoon before ending for the day at about 6 p.m.
"I think after you've run about 125 miles you're feeling a little sore. You're feeling tired. You're just ready to sit down and have a giant meal," Newton said. "Day six was difficult because we were running in the rainforest for seven hours straight. It was tough because it was a trail run so your body felt it every step. You're going up straight hills. You're climbing hands and knees trying to get to places and all the while it's covered so you're feeling a little claustrophobic."
One of the most memorable parts of the trip was when they visited a school and brought them school supplies.
"When we presented them with the school supplies, the response was amazing. They were just so happy," Newton said.
One of the students read them a poem that said: "the pencil, it will run out. The ink, it will run out, but the message of anything is possible with hard work, will stay forever."
"Just thinking about," Newton said, "added more value to our run because you're running for these kids. You're running for that message."
To learn more about impossible2Possible and the topics covered during the Peru expedition, visit the i2P website.Share via these networks: