Tuesday, June 17, 2008

SXU students work with children in Belize; First SXU international Mercy service-learning trip; Watch Belize video by SXU Junior Mark Piper

Chicago (May 17, 2008) Six Saint Xavier students traveled to Central America to perform a week of service, which included working at ministry locations in Belize and visiting several cultural sites.

The group was led by Sister Susan Sanders, R.S.M., Ph.D., Sister Joy Clough, R.S.M., and Professor David Arenas, Ph.D. They were hosted by Hand-in-Hand Ministries (HHM), an international human services organization that seeks to make Christ present in the world through service to the poor, especially abandoned or disabled children. Students worked at two HHM-related sites, a pre-school in one of Belize City’s poorer areas and an outreach center for children with HIV/AIDS.

SXU Senior Sara Koncel, of Shorewood, Ill., had the unique experience of substitute teaching at St. Martin's Childcare Center in Belize City when the regular teacher became ill.

“Those kids learn and think and react exactly the same way they do here in the States,” Koncel said. “They have the same needs, the same desires, not necessarily the same dreams and aspirations, but they still have dreams and aspirations. Half way around the world, three-year-olds are all the same.”

The group also took advantage of the Sisters of Mercy presence in Belize by serving at Mercy Clinic, which provides health services, including home visits and a daily meal program for senior citizens.

“This was an opportunity of a life time for our students to take part in the long-standing tradition of Mercy service,” said Sister Sanders. “The experiences on this trip speak to the very core of the values we hope to instill at Saint Xavier University, the first Sisters of Mercy institution of higher learning in the United States.”

Koncel said she would definitely be searching for ways to take more service trips. “You can sign me up now. It’s just so fulfilling to go on a service trip. You take ten days out of your life and you make such an impact on a child.”

Below, find a video of the Belize trip shot and edited by SXU Junior Mark Piper followed by a photo gallery.

Above: Mark Piper and a teacher at St. Martin's Childcare Center attached to St. Martin's School in Belize City.

Above and below from left to right: Sarah Koncel, Regina Byrnes and Matt Stevenson look at the wood carvings of Frank Panton.

Above from left to right: At Mercy Clinic, a local volunteer with Mark Piper and Regina Byrnes take a break to try coconut milk.

Above from left to right: Belizean Sister of Mercy Carolee Chanona and Sister Joy Clough, R.S.M.

Above from left to right: Sister Mercy Cervantes, R.S.M., Saint Xavier Vice President for Mission and Heritage Sister Susan Sanders, Ph.D., R.S.M., and Sister Leonor Franco, R.S.M.

Above and below: Regina Byrnes (above) and Edina Halilic (below) inscribe books they have brought to present to the school and daycare center where they volunteered.

Above from left to right: At Muffles College, Edina Halilic, two Muffles students, Regina Byrnes, Sr. Joy Clough, R.S.M., Mark Piper.

Above from left to right: Four Muffles students, Muffles College Principal Bernardino Pech, Sr. Joy Clough, R.S.M.

Above: Muffles Principal Bernardino Pech is presented with a framed copy of the Sisters of Mercy stained glass window on exhibit at Saint Xavier University.

Muffles College had several Mercy Symbols on the exterior walls. Alligator sighting on the river tour to the Mayan ruins at Lamanai!

Sister Joy Clough, R.S.M. at Lamanai.

Walking tour to the Mayan ruins.

Lamanai was one of the most prominent Mayan Ruin sites in Belize. This was the tallest of the three temples visited by the students. A hearty few made the climb.

Edina in a Belizean neighborhood.

Above: Garifuna dancers, part of a Belizean cultural subset, visited and danced. Edina was game.
The day before leaving, everyone went to Caye Caulker, an offshore island for swimming and snorkeling. Above, SXU Professor David Arenas.
Homeward bound.

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