by Tim Ziman
Within the past few weeks, Benedictine’s campus ministry has been trying to recruit students to attend their yearly service trip to Bolivia. The campus ministry has set up tables in the atrium of Kindlon in order to sign up and provide information to interested students.
Each year the University Ministry aims to reach out to the world and immerse students in service missions, not just locally but also abroad. Over the last few years the Campus Ministry has aided countries such as Bolivia and the Philippines in this way.
Service immersion is a unique way for students to not just explore another country but to do it without the ‘artificial’ approach of mainstream tourism. The program is designed to take students out of their comfort zone and into a real community that is suffering from severe poverty, such as in Sucre, Bolivia.
The program is not directly hosted by Benedictine University, but each year students from Benedictine participate.
“We assist the Diocese of Joliet in their service mission,” said Carrie Roberts, Pastoral Associate for Outreach.
On arrival in Bolivia, students typically spend a night in a hotel before heading to the village, but before they even leave for the trip, preparations begin months in advance and culminate in a special mass with the Diocese.
When students arrive at the village they are actively engaged in performing a number of service missions, such as: Working in the San Atonio Soup Kitchen preparing meals for the Sucre community, working with young children at the TataJuan Daycare center and San Martin Orphanage as well as the Alto Daycare center.
“The Bolivians love playing soccer and we nearly always lose, but we play it a lot,” said Roberts.
The goal of the service immersion is to make the students feel they are actually a part of the community itself, and so students stay in the community in a dormitory set up by the diocese. They typically have long days of hard work performing all manner of duties, whether it is helping to construct a house or helping young children learn how to read and write, as well as playing soccer.
“Students generally make new friends and the community that we help loves them for that,” Roberts said; “our focus is on serving, and that we all have dinner together as well as having a special mass.”
Overall, the trip is expensive but what students get out of the trip itself is worth much more than the financial cost behind it. Students who have attended the trip in the past, returned to the United States with many fond memories.
“My most memorable part of going to Bolivia was probably seeing all the kids and how much love we can give them, but how much love they give us back,” said senior Ania Bosek.
There are of course safety measures that have been taken into consideration by the Diocese, and the trip is not only safe but highly rewarding for two weeks during a university vacation.
As preparations for the next Bolivia Trip are in the works, interested students can contact Carrie Roberts for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the University Ministry.