On December 26 and 27, 2014, two planes left from Boston’s Logan Airport, destined for San Antonio Suchitepéquez, Guatemala, and Blanchard, Haiti. This was the beginning of the 2014–2015 International Service Trips hosted by the College, and the commencement of the eighth annual trip for Saint Joseph’s students and staff.
Kathryn Cody, the College’s social justice and leadership coordinator, and Sharon Martin, professor of nursing, accompanied 16 students to Guatemala. This was the first of two separate trips to Guatemala: a second team traveled down from January 2 to January 9, 2015.
Cody recalls their daily schedule in Guatemala: “On most days, we had breakfast at 7 a.m. and were at our worksite by 8 a.m. All nursing students volunteered in the clinic, while others worked on the construction of a new house or on putting together water filters for a project that was introduced to the community by Partners in Development.” These community-strengthening exercises are a major component of the annual service trips.
Community, one of the seven core values of Saint Joseph’s College, is especially palpable during these trips. Professor of Theology Steven Bridge, who supervised the Haiti trip, says that even in a place where there is little to spare, the community really shines. “Although materially impoverished, these communities possess a far greater wealth: strong relationships, deep faith, and authentic joy.”
Another important aspect of these trips is the opportunity for nursing students to get hands-on experience. This year’s trip was Martin’s third consecutive year attending the trip, and second overseeing the clinical nursing students who are completing the course NU 405: Community Health Nursing. As outlined in the syllabus, Martin ensures the trip allows “students to recognize and respond to the population’s primary health problems” she says, “which includes but are not limited to intestinal parasites related to unsanitary water, anemia and failure to thrive related to dietary issued and intestinal parasites, dental carries and infections, communicable diseases such as lice, and high rates of asthma and other respiratory problems related in part to air quality.”
For the Haiti excursion, students focused on community building by visiting an orphanage, digging a latrine, and staffing the medical clinic during their weeklong trip. Service trip alum Kaye Peabody ’15 experienced Haiti for the second time with the College. She could not wait to come back after her first trip in the winter of 2013 and notes that this year’s trip was particularly rewarding because she was able to build upon her knowledge from the previous year. “I always come back with such a renewed desire to help these people,” she says. “This year, it was really amazing for me to see the houses we had helped build last year finished and with families living in them.”
Student Rachel Pelletier ’16, who traveled to Guatemala, was equally affected by her eye-opening trip. She ended up staying the full two-week period, a new option offered for the first time this year to those who wished to extend their time in the country. “Now that I have participated in volunteer programs, it is much more difficult to travel for pleasure,” says Pelletier, whose outlook on tourism has shifted. “Due to the Guatemala trip, there is an indescribable pleasure gained from the experience that can’t be found in many other adventures.”
“It is always such a blessing on trips such as these to be witness to the internal and emotional changes that are occurring in all of us,” says Kathryn Cody, “especially the students.”