Avid volunteer freshman Lilly Perry has seen poverty both in the United States and abroad. Her passion for service work stems from her personal experiences with volunteering and a deep commitment to bringing about positive change. “My family was always into volunteering, but I became passionate about it when I went to Guatemala,” Perry said.
Perry’s experience in Guatemala as a high school freshman through the nonprofit Safe Passage organization helped to guide her course toward her future in philanthropy. According to Perry, she was most affected by visiting the mile-long city dumps, where impoverished Guatemalans scavenge through gigantic trash piles for items and material to sell for whatever money they can get.
Perry explained that the Guatemalans label this occupation “dump picker” and that children look to dump-picking as a future career. Her most resonant memory is the sight of Guatemalans running after the garbage trucks to get the first look at the trash.
tv show: “Lost”
book: Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
food: Penne a la vodka
poem: “for Those of You Who Can Still Ride an Airplane for the First time” by Anis Mojgani
song: “She’s a Jar” by Wilco
Perry’s volunteering experience didn’t stop in Guatemala. As a sophomore in high school, she continued her mission by volunteering in New Orleans through her Unitarian Church. Perry said that her trip involved projects that focused on rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit.
This trip encouraged her to volunteer again in New Orleans in the spring of 2014. Perry noted that that this return trip was much more eye-opening; she was focused more on “social justice, not just building houses.” Perry added that she experienced workshops in racism and classism, issues she said “were brought to light [in New Orleans] after the hurricane.”
According to Perry, there are still 100,000 displaced people in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “It was heartbreaking to see all the abandoned homes, knowing that those families couldn’t return,” she said.
Perry’s experience in New Orleans demonstrated that even in the United States, people suffer immensely from poverty. “After Guatemala, I was interested in developing countries,” Perry said. “After New Orleans, I was interested in domestic work,” Perry said.
Perry continued to pursue domestic volunteering through Girls Inc., an organization that works with girls from kindergarten up until their senior year of high school. The organization helps the girls with homework and gives out snacks. According to Perry, many of the students come to the program hungry because they don’t have a lot of food at home.
In addition to being an active volunteer, Perry is a member of Peace Action Geneseo and the Slam Poets’ Society on Avon Road. Perry encourages others to volunteer not only for the joy that comes with helping others, but as a means of self-discovery and growth.
“By focusing on the world around me, I ended up learning about myself accidentally,” Perry said.