From the Bronx to Honduras, students serve

Julie Balzarini

Many students spent their spring breaks helping others, with 385 Villanovans traveling all over the world to participate in Habitat for Humanity and Mission Service Experiences.

Students wanting to participate in a service break experience completed an application, due after winter break. There is usually a waitlist for the trips, in case volunteers cancel at the last minute. This year, no students were left on the waitlist; each one was accepted to a trip.

The cost of the experiences was paid for by the students, but they had many opportunities to fundraise.

Participation in an experience ranged from $150-$1,200, but some students were able to pay for their entire trip through fundraisers.

On March 29, the volunteers were invited to a commissioning in the St. Thomas of Villanova Church. They received a blessing from University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., and a send off from the Villanova community.

Eight of the 22 groups worked with Habitat for Humanity, a non -profit organization that builds homes for people in need of adequate housing.

These experiences included trips to Georgia, Texas, South Carolina and Louisiana, and each brought 20-30 volunteers. The trips to Sea Island, S.C., and Sumter, S.C., were freshman-only experiences.

Freshman Kerry McManus spent her break in Sumter, S.C., with 23 other freshmen, two junior leaders and two advisoes. Her group worked on two houses for the Dennis and Green families on Habitat Drive, a street of houses built by Habitat.

The group worked with four Habitat coordinators from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day.

“They had the patience of saints, and we wouldn’t have gotten anything done without their help,” McManus said.

The group worked on the houses all day, participated in group reflections at night and bonded during the entire trip.

“We all felt like we had been friends for so much longer than just five days,” McManus said. “The week was perfect and if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

The other 14 experiences were Mission Service Experiences to places in the United States and around the world. They each brought between eight and 26 volunteers.

Volunteers traveled to the Bronx, N.Y., and worked at a women’s shelter, immigration center and a Catholic elementary school.

Junior Thomas Shireman participated in the trip to the Bronx.

“Our mission trip to the Bronx opened our eyes to the exhausting struggle of inner-city education systems, the painfully challenging adjustment and acculturation of immigrants to life in America and the daily striving for life of the homeless,” Shireman said.

Shireman befriended numerous community members during his time in the Bronx.

“It was truly a blessing to embrace and be embraced by members of our universal family in the Bronx,” Shireman said.

Students who traveled to Chicago, Ill., spent the week working with volunteer teachers of Chicago’s Inner-City Teaching Corps program. The program trains recent college graduates to become teachers in inner-city schools.

Students also volunteered in Philadelphia, learning about the struggles of low-wage immigrant workers and social justice action.

In Rancho Mastatal, Costa Rica, volunteers worked with the Tico and Zapaton Indians. Students learned about rural poverty, the rainforest and the environment.

In San Jose, Costa Rica, students taught English in a local high school and learned about the economy and politics affecting the country.

Volunteers in Los Ninos, Tijuana and San Diego worked along the California/Mexican border alongside Mexican residents in projects with local schools and community centers.

Two cities in Peru welcomed student volunteers. In Chulucanas volunteers worked at an Augustinian Mission, building, tutoring and experiencing the local culture.

In Lima, volunteers worked with street children, orphanages and soup kitchens.

Mission Honduras allowed volunteers to do projects such as painting or construction and tutoring children. The students also participated in morning and evening prayer with the community.

Volunteers in Antigua, Guatemala, worked with the God’s Child Program and the Asociacion Nuestros Ahlijados.

They worked on projects such as pouring concrete floors in shacks and laying water pipes along a mountainside.

They also helped to build the DREAMER Center, an educational and health center outside of Antigua.

Students also participated in a Nursing and Engineering Service Experience in Waslala, Nicaragua, and a Nursing Service Experience in Elko, Nevada.