Beyond Vassar

Back to the Andes

By Jessica Winum

He was born in the Andes to a Peruvian father and a Scottish mother, was raised in America, and carries a United States passport. So it's no wonder that Richard Webb '92 has a giant case of wanderlust.

After graduating from Vassar, Webb traveled to Japan, Sweden, Peru, and Germany playing professional soccer. His skill on the field was touted in international newspapers such as Eastern Express and Sports World. In 1995, he took time out from traveling and professional soccer to coach Vassar's soccer team. But the world called and he set out again to play on foreign turf. 

In 1998, Webb took a hiatus from the sport to form ProPeru, a service-learning travel organization for college students and adults who want to travel to Peru and do more than sightsee.

The idea for the program grew out of Webb's three years as a tour guide for VISIONS, an organization that offers service-learning experiences for teens both in and out of the U.S., and his annual trips to visit family in Peru, he explained in an interview in June.

Webb spent two years laying the groundwork for the program, traveling back and forth between Peru and New York, working with several members of the development community in Peru and contacts he had made while working for VISIONS.

In May, a group of students from the University of Pittsburgh's department of international education became the first group to take part in a ProPeru excursion. They built a nursery school, enjoyed local music traditions, shopped at the local market, cooked traditional foods, and resided in the small impoverished Sacred Valley village they temporarily called home.

The trip was so successful, said Webb, he now wants to create a program that will fit an academic year-abroad program model. "I want it to be a sort of a private, mini Peace Corps in Peru," he said, "a real immersion experience."

His idea: students in the program would work side-by-side with community members on projects such as housing construction, public health and computer education, and English language education, and will spread out all over Peru. "For our groups, the cross-cultural connections and friendships are the most profound accomplishments of each program."