Give to Gain: Fall Service Trips

Marywood Service Trips
Javier Diaz playing with students on the Guatemala International Service Trip, May 2009. Photo credit Jean Gruber.

Danielle Walker

Staff Writer

Sometimes when we think of community service we think of helping the elderly or preparing meals for the less fortunate. How about defining community service as productively using a few days from your fall vacation to learn, grow, and serve others?
The Fall Service Trip that Marywood hosts annually will be held at the Romero Center in Camden, New Jersey which thrives in being an urban retreat and social justice education center. In one of the most poverty stricken cities within the country, the Romero Center objective is to create awareness by “wanting young people to see that there is both opportunity and challenge in the work of the church, and wanting adults to understand their role in bringing about societal commitment to end poverty and discrimination in our world,” states the official website of the Center, www.romero-center.org. This center creates “the urban challenge” which is an experience that gives people of any faith to “build bridges of understanding, and confront issues that divide poverty within communities, race, and class,” also stated by the website.
The mission of the Fall Service Trip is to increase awareness of poverty and serve an underprivileged population in a way that represents our Catholic identity, in a way that represents Marywood!
The Campus Ministry Staff decided together where the site will be held for this Fall Service trip. In the past, Marywood students have had an excellent experience at the Romero Center, gaining a sense of knowledge and humility for others. “I am embarrassed to say that I used to think that people in poverty either chose to be that way or were too lazy to do anything about it. But now I realize that poverty is truly a cycle that is almost impossible to break. I see now that people like the ones I have encountered on my trips are truly trying to make their lives and their children’s lives better and they just need a little help from us to help break that cycle. I also realize that I can make a difference and that I am a big part of helping to break that cycle. I also learned on these trips to be so grateful for what I do have. I realize now how blessed I am to have all the opportunities I do. I try everyday to be more selfless and caring towards others and to make sure to appreciate my life the way it is,” states Marywood student, Vanessa Szilagyi.
She would highly recommend this experience that informs, builds community, teaches humility and to be understanding to the world that surrounds Marywood. Ideally, the site reflects the mission of this service trip, which is to assist the community within Camden that faces much poverty, crime, and high illiteracy rates. This is an opportunity to have a good experience that will allow volunteers to be exposed to what life is like struggling to survive. Campus Ministry and facilitators have worked diligently to make arrangements that would suite the mission of the fall service trip as well as Marywood.
Community service is a major part of the service trips, and the impact that the service has on the volunteers. The students typically do not know the specific tasks in which they will be performing, but there are some usual activities that take place when taking part in this service trip: fix-up jobs, housing rehabilitation, homeless outreach, working with children, and working at a housing center for persons infected with HIV and AIDS. “Each and every person interprets these service experiences differently. The beauty of it is sharing our experiences and reflections together as a group each evening. Students are encouraged to fully engage in all planned events, and while being mindful, and mentally present in all experiences my hope would be for the students to gain a different view of how diverse our country is, and with this to demonstrate understanding, and compassion. With collective reflections and faith we collaborate our thoughts in order to understand and create a unity in our group,” says a service trip facilitator and Marywood student, Jean Gruber. Students take pride within their service and that encourages others to give service as well.
In college, we thrive on trying to be successful and learning as much as we can. There is also a part of us that wants to make connections, challenge ourselves, and to interact in a new and enlightened way. The fall service trip allows us to experience those things, and give community service.
As students of Marywood we get to uphold our school’s mission and make a difference within a certain group of people. That experience can possibly affect actions that you choose to make later in life. This is a “win win situation.” You are giving time and effort to make a difference in other people’s lives to gain knowledge, humility, humbleness, connections between peers and others around you, and so much more. This is not just a trip this is an experience that captivates people and builds on a desire to help many others.
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