Twelve Siena students, along with two chaperones, Fr. Sean O'Brien, O.F.M., associate director of FCSA and Ashley Dwyer '08, assistant director of employer relations, embarked on a service immersion trip to Negril, Jamaica. The group was welcomed to Jamaica by Fr. Jim Bok and Fr. Colin King, two Franciscan friars who also served as the group's contact in Negril.
The service projects included going into the hills with Fr. Colin to visit the parish he serves, delivering communion to the homebound, preparing St. Mary's church for its upcoming Harvest fundraiser, painting and helping serve at St. Anthony's Soup Kitchen, helping to build a house for a member of the parish, and tutoring 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders at Negril All Age School.
“Even though this was my third service trip to Jamaica, the poverty and the poor living conditions still shock me,” said Patrick Talbert ’18. “However, I am no longer surprised to see the same strength of the Jamaican people in their faith and their efforts to support their communities. This was my final service trip with Siena. But I am reminded of the importance of continuing service after college in our local communities and beyond.”
Student leader Joe Ferro ’19 was able to attend his third trip to Fontaine, Haiti this winter, leading his fellow Saints alongside chaperones Fr. Dennis Tamburello ’75, O.F.M., professor of religious studies and Melody Nadeau, Ph. D., assistant director of international programs. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and that won’t change in a week but people can help by creating relationships and exchanging knowledge with one another - exactly what the Saints did.
“[The FCSA] wanted to show the [Saints] what it’s actually like for the community in Haiti; what it’s like for them to work, how they build houses, gardening, and what they’re trying to do to make Haiti better,” said Ferro.
Students doing service in Haiti went out to the fields with an agronomist who showed them how to take care of the plants and harvest items such as beans, helped build houses by putting up tin roofing and seeing the process of creating the building’s frame, and taught students at Saint Gabriel’s Secondary School. Building houses, working the fields, and everything in Haiti is a community effort. “Their philosophy is, ‘if you help me with my house today, next time you need me I’ll be able to help you.’ It’s a very supportive community,” said Ferro.
“I think everyone should try to do some sort of service activity…,” he followed up with. “I think it’s important for people to see how other groups are living and to see how they actually have to survive. I think it would make everyone realize that we’re actually in this together and that you can learn a lot from other cultures, other people, who have much less than we do.”
Chaperoned by Adam Casler, director of community living, and Kara James, FCSA assistant, eleven Saints experienced the culture of Nicaragua by visiting a handful of locations and working alongside the community members. They were met by Joe Connelly '06, whose permanent residence is in Nicaragua working for the Center for Global Education and Experience (CGEE).
With their main stay located in Managua, the Saints also stayed in El Sontule for one night amongst the Miraflor Nature Reserve community where they helped pick coffee and participated in daily household chores. The students on this trip also went to El Trapiche to paint a school and play with the community’s school-aged children. They were able to meet many empowering people and see inspiring places along the way, such as groups of women who make an independent living from the men off making jewelry, creating cards, and growing dragon fruit, Café de las Sonrisas, a café and crafts shop that gives employment to the disabled, and an indigenous community that makes all-natural pottery with techniques dating back to the Mayans.
“We spent some time learning how various groups and individuals in Nicaragua advocate on behalf of themselves or marginalized groups, and how the country is continuing to grow in so many ways,” said Thom Schlinck ’19.