The trips, taken during semester break in January, are sponsored by Saint Joseph's College in cooperation with Partners in Development (PID) of Ipswich, Mass.
Students, faculty and staff complete a weeklong service trip to Haiti where they construct new houses, volunteer in a health clinic and work on children's programs. Recently, one faculty member worked on an organizational handbook for the field director of the Haitian PID operation, designing training for employees and volunteers, along with creating job descriptions for the Haitian directors.
For seven years in a row, students, faculty and staff from Saint Joseph's College have volunteered in small Mayan villages in Guatemala. They provide medical aid, help to build basic cinderblock homes, distribute hundreds of pounds of donated items and enjoy playing with the village children.
Generally, the week also includes sightseeing to the Mayan ruins, the colonial capital of Antigua, and to Panajachel, a scenic village nestled on the shore of beautiful Lake Atitlan.
"The main lesson I learned from the people of Guatemala is that, even though they didn't have many materialistic possessions, they were still happy, especially the children."
"We did all that we could and we truly saw that we made a difference. Looking back on the trip, I solemnly believe that the world cannot continue to turn a blind eye to these people and what they need."
Most of the villagers had never seen a doctor. Nursing faculty and students took blood pressure, checked blood-sugar levels and dressed cuts and abrasions.
"Christianity shows us that there's something innately good about reaching out to those in need - that in doing so, we literally encounter the Divine."
"It’s amazing how a smile can mean the world to someone. It’s something understood internationally, something everyone understands no matter what language they speak."
"I never thought I would appreciate a Pepsi and a social hour at a restaurant quite as much as I did... A luxury from home meant more than ever before. It shows how much we take for granted."
In addition to becoming part-time dentists, doctors and construction workers, team members played soccer and did crafts with the children. They handed out toys and clothes as well.
"The people would invite us into their house so we could see how much pride they took in them. It was a great feeling to see how well the people took care of their houses."