Students Reflect on Service Experiences April 2, 2014

More than 60 students, faculty and staff that included Rockhurst University President the Rev. Thomas B. Curran spent their recent spring break serving others at six different service sites both in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to ongoing service opportunities in places like the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize, students, faculty and staff also had the chance to participate in service trips in West Virginia and South Dakota.

“It was absolutely a life-changing experience,” said Allison Streich, ’14, who was part of a group that served in the Dominican Republic, assisting with local reforestation efforts and helping at a medical clinic and a school.

The trip to South Dakota was a first for the University, according to Bill Kriege, assistant director of Campus Ministry. While there, the students served with partner agency Re-member at the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Native American reservation, where approximately 49 percent of residents live below the federal poverty line and the unemployment rate has been as high as 80 percent. Kriege said the students helped weatherize mobile homes against the harsh South Dakota winter, and build bunk beds and outhouses for the people who live there. But he said they also were immersed in the Native American culture, even receiving a rare glimpse into a Native American religious sweat ceremony. For Christian Lamb, ’14, the experience underscored common faith traditions and the lessons he had learned about the Oglala Lakota people during the week.

“While intense, the sweat was an incredibly enlightening experience that gave me a unique feeling of solidarity and understanding of the Lakota people and the oppression they felt when sweats were outlawed,” he said. “In many ways, the sweat felt like a Mass.”

Chelse Williams is a sophomore whose trip to Guatemala with a group that worked on various town construction projects was her first service trip abroad. She said she did not know what to expect going into the trip, but came away with a better sense of perspective on her own life based on the people she met in Guatemala.

“The people of San Lucas were extremely welcoming,” she said. “They easily invited us into their worlds and their lives. Even though many of the Guatemalans in the community live in poverty, they invited us into their homes and personal spaces and often told us ‘you are my family now.’ They showed me that cultural and language barriers are meaningless in the presence of love.”

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