In true Duhawk fashion, each spring Loras students choose to spend their break from academics giving back to others. They travel, with faculty and staff mentors, to different areas of the country and the world for these often unforgettable and life enhancing experiences. Spring of 2017 brought Duhawks to New Orleans, Louisiana, Granger Country, Tennessee, Camden, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Honduras. Here are some first-hand accounts from students that participated.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Haley Roberts (’19)
I had the incredible opportunity to travel down to my home state of Louisiana and the beautiful city of New Orleans for a service trip with eleven of my fellow Duhawks. Going into the eighteen hour car drive down, part of me knew what we were walking into, but I had never helped try and fix any of it.
Hurricane Katrina happened over twelve years ago and New Orleans is still struggling to get back on its feet. Since the beginning, Loras has been going down to help in whatever way we can and this is something I greatly admire about our beloved school; however, there is only so much we can do in a little less than a week. My experience there was wonderful in more ways than one. While it felt wonderful to be “home” it also made me pretty sad that people were still struggling twelve years later.
The Sunday before we began any work we all attended Mass together and during the homily something was said that stuck with us the rest of the trip, “Will you wash your hands of this?” Very quickly that homily became our theme for the rest of the week. Over the next four days we worked on a few house projects, painting one house, working on mudding and drywall in another, and priming in the last. At first the work didn’t seem like that big of a deal, but as the days progressed and the more stories we heard, we began to realize that it mattered so much to the individuals that asked for our help.
We worked hard throughout the week and even finished a project, however, when Friday rolled around none of us were ready to leave. I remember during our last group meeting some of us were in tears because we wanted to stay and continue our work, but we were reminded of our ongoing theme that week, “Will you wash your hands of this?” We all said that we would continue to work and serve others and that we would not “wash our hands of this.”
Ava Lalor (’17)
I, along with thirteen others from Loras, traveled to Honduras this spring break to serve an organization called APUFRAM. This organization takes in underprivileged children whose families may not be able to fully care for them or give them an education. APUFRAM houses, clothes, and educates these children. We stayed on the same property as the girls’ elementary school, and each afternoon we would walk down the little lane to hang out with them. When we arrived on Saturday, April 8th, all of us on the trip were timid towards these little girls, unsure how to approach them with our limited knowledge of Spanish. It didn’t take long for this to change. Soon we were laughing along with their voices, communicating through simple phrases, expressions, and hand motions. They did not hold our language skills against us but rather helped us and eagerly learned a few English words as well. Between bubbles, soccer, and a pool party, the kids easily found a way into our hearts.
Outside of playing with these girls, we put a roof on a building at the boys’ high school. The organization had expected us to take three or four days to complete this project, but it only took us two days. We were so efficient that we were also able to clean the rooms we were covering, sweeping rubble from the old roof out of the rooms. On the third day, we also helped paint a kitchen at the girls’ school with a cement mixture to reinforce the walls. We also experienced the culture through attending Mass on Palm Sunday and watching their Good Friday procession in one of the towns, Comayagua.
When we parted on Friday, we were torn as the people of Honduras had taught us so much about being present to people even amidst differences. Our group also grew very close through stepping outside of our comfort zones and reflecting on each day together. I believe I can speak for everyone on the trip when I say “Muchas gracias, Honduras, y mucho amor” — many thanks, Honduras, and lots of love.
Granger County, Tennessee
Miranda Smith (’17)
Over my spring break I had the opportunity to work with Glenmary Volunteers in Granger County, Tennessee. We did a variety of different projects with them to serve the community in the best ways possible. Some of the projects included visiting the local nursing home, packing and serving food at a food pantry, visiting community members and various construction projects. One that we spent a few days on was building a deck for a couple to be able to use to get out of their home. They both have limited mobility and being on disability do not have the means to fund this project themselves. We spent some very hot days in the sun finishing this deck and were able to leave it completed for them to use.
Our trip focused not only on serving the people in the community but also entering into their experience, challenging ourselves to live simply and to put ourselves into the shoes of those we were serving in order to love them. I felt so at peace and joyful during the entire experience and will forever remember all of the stories that were shared during this experience. To love another is a gift of self and I know that I have left part of myself in Tennessee with all of the people that I was able to love and serve during my time there. I cannot think of a better way to spend a spring break, serving, growing in community and loving!
Jasmine Sronkoski (’17)
Over my senior year spring break, myself and eight other Loras students traveled to Washington D.C. During our trip we learned peace through various lenses including care for creation, education, advocacy, and participating in a nonviolent witness.
We spent the first half of the trip becoming aware of nature through gardening and reflecting at a Peace Oasis. We also spent an afternoon working at a school called Little Friends for Peace, engaging in one-on-one activity with elementary students. From there, we dove into advocacy by lobbying on Capitol Hill, discussing recent immigration policies. Finally, we ended the week with an intense, nonviolent witness in front of the Pentagon and White House.
The D.C. Social Action trip was life changing. I was able to work with and understand the various peaceful, nonviolent organizations, groups, and individuals striving towards social change. The trip confirmed that I wish to continue a life of activism. During the witness in front of the White House, I felt this overwhelming need to throw up a peace sign, as a symbol of standing in solidarity of those affected by all types of victimization ranging from racism to militarism – I have never felt more alive than I did in that moment.
On a calmer note, I was introduced to the benefits of a simple lifestyle. Changing my daily routine to reduce my carbon footprint when possible and approaching the natural beauty around me significantly affected my attitude.
The trip was challenging, emotional, real, and I would recommend to anyone discerning about ways to become more involved and present in the world.
Camden, New Jersey
Ben Friedman (’20)
Camden was incredible. Helping package meals for the homeless, serving food at a night shelter, sitting in on AA meetings, and partaking in several other service projects throughout the community gave us the opportunity to meet those who are directly impacted by the poverty of the city and those who are dedicating their lives to helping them. Camden is one of the poorest cities in the nation, and being immersed in a culture and a world like that was truly heartbreaking. However, at the same time, the people of Camden are filled with a hope that the city will one day return to the wealth it knew in the mid-20th century, and that sort of hidden hope found even within those at the lowest points of their lives was remarkable.
My favorite part of the trip, however, were the reflections we had at night within our group. We took about an hour to recap our highs, lows, and where we saw God every day. The perspectives that the others brought to our discussions opened my eyes to ideas that I hadn’t even thought of. For example, when recapping our day trip into Philadelphia, we discussed what a different world Philly was, even though it was just a 10-minute drive from Camden over the Delaware River. It was reminder that poverty is often hidden in the shadow of wealth. Most importantly, we discussed how the work we did in Camden won’t make a lasting impact on the community. It’s a harsh, but real and undeniable fact of our trip—we weren’t there long enough to make a lasting impact. However, we noted that the impact Camden had on us is something that we can take back to any sort of community we find ourselves in.