THE sight of people begging in the streets during a trip to South America when she was seven must have stayed in the back of Michelle Cerda's mind.
The former St Patrick's College student has chosen to return to the continent as an adult and will spend three months of her gap year volunteering at a school near Cusco, Peru.
She leaves this weekend and will travel with 20 other young people in a trip organised by Antipodeans, a company that specialises in volunteer placements in underprivileged countries.
The 18-year-old completed her HSC last year but was keen to have a break and help a community in need before she studied to become either a nurse or a teacher.
In the first leg of the trip, the group will spend six hours a day learning Spanish and seeing the sights of Cusco.
They will then make their way to a nearby village, where they will stay with Peruvian families and volunteer at the local school.
"Half our time will be spent at the school, teaching in English primarily and some sports and art," she said.
"The other half we will be doing building, we're hoping to build a greenhouse and maybe a trout farm and help rebuild a school fence.
"And we'll visit some of the kids' houses and see if they need anything.
"I hope I can make a difference in some way in the children's lives.
"It's a really big deal for them to learn English because it will give them so much of an advantage when they go to get jobs."
Michelle needs donations to buy school supplies and resources for the children.
Details: To donate email firstname.lastname@example.org.