Over break, students give time for service

Saint Louis University students traveled cross-country last week via buses, cars and planes on a mission to immerse themselves in a different culture.  Students not only lent a helping hand but also learned about issues of oppression and poverty affecting the community.

SLU Campus Ministry offered several immersion trips opportunities to a broad range of cities including Mobile, Alabama, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Missouri, Klagetoh, Arizona, Kemit  and Wheeling, West Virginia.

Several students of the SLU community, accompanied by campus ministers, traveled to the L’Arche community in Mobile, Alabama.  The L’Arche community supports individuals living with developmental disabilities.  Students spent time working with the community cleaning, painting and interacting with members and workers in the community.  Marty O’Malley, director of L’Arche Mobile, and Sr. Becky Holley, CSJ, L’Arche home leader, and prominent leaders of the community met with trip participants.   

SLU students spent time playing games, dancing and participating in worship with community members in their activity center.

Beau Guedry attended the trip and particularly enjoyed spending time at the activity center, seeing firsthand the daily struggles and successes of those living with developmental disabilities.  “I sat with Wally, a man probably in his forties, with a significant intellectual disability.  He is wheelchair-bound and his vocabulary is limited to a small set of phrases.  I watched him struggle to eat his tuna-macaroni salad; I watched him erupt with joy after finishing each bite.”

Those who attended the Los Angeles Immersion trip spent the spring break week learning about the restorative justice movement.  Students met with several organizations, including Homeboy Industries, the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.  They spoke with members working to enhance awareness of oppression present in juvenile halls and the prison system.   

Service: Spring break spent far and wide bettering others

Leaders of the organization spoke about policies designed to prevent and alleviate the injustices present throughout correctional facilities and the justice system.

The group visited the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, California, and the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, California.  SLU students attended mass with the general population in the juvenile hall.  Juveniles in solitary confinement are not permitted to attend mass with the general population.  While at the juvenile hall, the group divided up; some met and reflected with boys living in solitary confinement, and others met and reflected with the girl inmates.

Throughout the trip, the students met several people who had been previously incarcerated.  They described their time in prison, as well as their transition back into society.  The trip was limited to students 21 and over since there’s a minimum-age requirement to enter a juvenile hall or correctional facility.

A Native American reservation was a destination for several SLU students.  During the week, the group stayed at St. Anne’s Mission in Klagetoh, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation Reservation.  Trip participants were educated Navajo history, the poverty of the Navajo people and their cultural focus on harmony. The students spent time interacting with members of the St. Anne community and learned about their lives as Navajo people.  They immersed themselves in the culture of the area and visited the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Canyon de Chally and Spider Rock.   SLU student Maria Bednar was a student leader for the trip.  “Both in meetings before, and during the trip, we were informed and made to think critically about Navajo history and how it has been impacted and silenced by mainstream American history,” Bednar said.  She also expressed an appreciation for the encounter with a different culture.  “My own borders for social analysis were pushed further, and I learned and saw invaluable things and met people with incredible stories.”

A trip designated for the SLU Greek community traveled to a community in Kermit, West Virginia.  Students stayed with the organization Able Families, which serves the community by facilitating after-school programs for  neighborhood children and tutoring people preparing to take the GED or other standardized tests.  The organization also sponsors an in-home education program known as MIHOW (Maternal Infant Health Outreach Worker).  Through interactions with the organization and the community, students learned about the effects of the coal mining industry, the culture of the area and the poverty present in Appalachia .

Trip participants worked closely with the MIHOW program throughout the week.  The students painted and cleaned a 21-year-old woman’s home that  has four children.  “On the last night of our trip the 10 of us cooked a big pot of noodles and brought dinner to [her] family.  I think that was one of the most meaningful parts of our trip,” SLU student Meg Peterson recalled.  The students also visited several government-funded head-start programs for children and even performed “Cat in the Hat” for a class of preschoolers.

Further information and photos from the trips can be found on the Campus Ministry website.  The Spring Break Day of Reflection is scheduled for Sunday, April 12 in the CGC seminar rooms.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email