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Volunteering In Vernazza

22 Park Hill Girl Scouts’ Adventure In Italy

Story and photos by Kristin Coulter

For the GPHN

Fundraising and hard work pays off. Park Hill Girl Scout Troop 63573 recently returned from a glorious 10-day tour of Italy. One day of the trip was spent volunteering in the spectacularly beautiful Ligurian coastal town of Vernazza. 

You may never have heard of Vernazza, but you have likely heard of Cinque Terre. In Italian, Cinque Terre means Five Lands. Vernazza is one of the five small towns that make up the region.

 We picked Cinque Terre as the location for a service project because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are more than 1,000 sites around the world that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has determined to have such cultural, historic or other significance that they merit international treaty protection. 

In 2011 Vernazza was hit by devastating floods. Up to 13 feet of mud and debris was left in the narrow streets and passageways of the cliff-side ocean village. Eight years later the inhabitants continue to feel the impact of the floods. The troop helped reclaim a site where a vineyard terrace wall had collapsed. After a long harrowing climb up terrace steps that would have made a mountain goat pause, we reached a section of wall that had crumbled. Along the way we saw poppies, hydrangeas and lemon trees on the edges of the rows of grape vines. 

The teenage Ambassador Girl Scouts, along with sisters, cousins and mothers that made up our group of 11, worked hard to separate rocks from dirt and big rocks from small rocks. 

The walls require a particular combination and variety of rock sizes in order to hold. The water from irrigation lines and rain must be able to pass the small rocks while the large rocks keep the soil from eroding. We formed a bucket brigade in order move dirt to an upper terrace so that the wall could be rebuilt. Our efforts were rewarded with delicious focaccia and pecorino cheese as well as a lesson in small batch wine making. 

We left with full hearts having given back to the country we were visiting and with the knowledge that we had helped make the world a better place.

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