Service Trips and Mentoring

By Lindsay Carr ’13

Over Spring Break, the Mercy Center sent roughly 30 students to various sites for a week of a volunteer service and cultural immersion experience. This year they went to Flat Gap, Kentucky, Camden, New Jersey, Westchester County, New York, and Indian Island, Maine. Each group was provided with shelter, some were provided with food and all learned what it meant to live like the poorest of our neighbors. Those that went to Flat Gap worked alongside the Christian Appalachian Project repairing/building houses for the people of the community. This was the school’s 24th trip to CAP and is one of the favorites of the students. The group that traveled to Camden stayed at the Romero Center and did various activities and service projects. In Westchester County, they worked with Habitat for Humanity and worked on one of two builds/reconstruction projects for those in the Yonkers area. The all-girls group that went north to Indian Island had more of a cultural immersion experience as they stayed with the Sisters of Mercy and got the chance to meet and interact with the members of the community. Instead of me trying to accurately describe all that these groups did and the differences they made in the lives of others, here are what some have to say about their various experiences:

For Spring Break Workfest this year I went to work with the Christian Appalachian Project in Eastern Kentucky. We worked with their home repair division throughout the week. We were all split up into teams with students from all different colleges, and each team was given a family to work with the repair their home. In my team's case, we were working to build a new home, as the previous home was irreparable. Throughout the week we were able to put a roof on the house, install windows and doors, put siding on three out of four sides and start building the back porch. My favorite part of Workfest was getting to know all of the Saint Joe's students in my group, as well as meeting college students from around the country. This was an amazing, life-changing experience, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world!”  Corey ’13, CAP group leader

This year I led the group up to Indian Island, and without sounding cliché, it was a great experience. Our six days on the island were spent in an 'immersion experience' with the Sisters of Mercy and the Indian residents. This trip was geared less toward physical labor and more toward mental and spiritual labor. We started each morning in group prayer to set the tone for the day, and each night we shared reflection time and a closing-day prayer. Our week was chock-full of discussions on racism, hands-on crafts, service projects and presentations on Native spirituality, history and culture. Everyone we met was so inviting and willing to share with us; we felt right at home! I think I can speak for everyone when I say that our hearts were changed on this trip. Some of the group members stated that they were excited to go home and teach people the truth about what they learned; others said they were happy to become more culturally aware. Another added bonus of this trip is that our group became very close and each one of us came home with new friendships. All of us have come back renewed with awesome memories and stories after spending the week learning and having fun!” Krista ’14, Indian Island group leader

“Our trip to Indian Island was a phenomenal immersion experience in the community of the Penobscot Reservation. We felt so welcomed by the Sisters of Mercy who hosted the trip and by all of the community members of the island. Multiple speakers from the community came and shared their stories and talents with us. We learned about the school system, economics, government, history, language, spirituality and culture of the different native groups on the island. The thing that was most touching to me was how each of the individuals we met were so open to sharing their stories with us and how the value they have placed in their culture is apparent in the passion they have for their work, whatever  work that may be.” Mary Rose ’15, Indian Island group member

“It was great experience that allowed me to learn so much about the Indian culture. I had so much fun getting to know and becoming friends with everyone in my group!” Rose ’15, Indian Island group member

“Workfest, like always, was a memorable experience. This year had one major reward. We were passing out flyers about a teen program to help troubled youth and we actually had one boy go to the program and sign up to change his life around.” Stephanie ’13, Romero Center group leader

“This was my second year participating in Workfest and, once again, it is an experience that I will never forget. It was awesome to see both the good and the bad of Camden, and it truly gives me a new perspective on what I have; what I am entitled to. We worked with one kid that was a member of a local teen program and it blew me away hearing his story and that he is trying hard to give himself and his future family a better life than what he’s had. It really makes me sit back and be grateful for the fact that I can go to school and don’t have to worry where my next meal is coming from.” Lindsay ’15, Romero Center group member