Faculty and students get down to work in Guatemala and share in the common good

"It's at the heart and soul of our identity as Christians, and it's at
the heart and soul of our identity as a college," explains theology
professor Dr. Steven Bridge about the importance of service to others.

In January, Bridge led a team of 18 students and one other professor to
Guatemala, where, in conjunction with Partners in Development, they
helped Mayan villagers in the second-poorest country in the Western
Hemisphere.

When the team arrived in the village of Concepción, the mayor and a large assembly of excited villagers welcomed them. The streets were decorated with streamers and a generous banquet had been prepared. A TV crew also showed up: This was the first time an organized effort had been made to help this village, and it was big news.

Steve Bridge with a Guatemalan child

I benefit greatly from the experience…I see the generosity of our students and then the benefits of that contributing to the well-being of the villagers. It’s good to be in a position where I see the blessings on both sides.
–Theology professor, Dr. Steven Bridge

Most of these villagers had never seen a doctor or even brushed their teeth. After some preliminary training, the Saint Joseph's team got right down to business. While some students took blood pressures, checked blood-sugar levels, dressed cuts and abrasions, and dispensed more than 15,000 vitamins, others demonstrated proper brushing and flossing, administered 300 fluoride treatments, and cleaned the teeth of 511 patients.

Still other members of the team helped to build a house for Felipe Conroy and his family of nine, who had been living in a small shack made from scraps of wood. In just six days, the team dug the foundation, filled it with concrete, and started to construct the walls. They also dug a 150-foot-long trench for the water pipes. Thanks to the Saint Joseph's team and subsequent teams from Partners in Development, the Conroy family has now moved into the new, two-room house which has running water, a bathroom and electricity.

"The needs you find internationally tend to be more acute than the needs you find domestically," says Bridge. "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."

www.sjcme.edu/Guatemala

Note: Partners in Development, Inc. is an Ipswich, Mass., nonprofit that works toward community transformation in the Third World. The Christian service organization aims for whole life improvement for some of the world's neediest families with child sponsorships, small business loans, a housing program and a medical program. The program currently focuses on Haiti and Guatemala. To find out about joining a service team or for more information, contact www.pidonline.org.

by Matthew Pascarella '06