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GO Team Travels to Mexico and the Dominican Republic

“It’s jarring for most people to go into an impoverished home in a developing country,” said Dwayne Paul ’08. “The reaction is to reflect on all the ‘stuff’ they have at home.” As assistant director of campus ministry for faith and global justice, Paul witnessed this effect during two recent Global Outreach (GO) service trips. For the first time in the program’s history, Paul and Global Outreach students visited Mexico from May 22-30 and the Dominican Republic from June 3-11.

“Both trips went really well,” said Paul, who has been running the Global Outreach (GO) program for more than a year on behalf of the Office of Campus Ministry. GO team members volunteer annually for either a domestic or international service trip to work with the poor and marginalized people of a selected country. Inspired by Ignatian spirituality and the mission of the University, participants strive to work for justice; learn through mutual sharing of a cultural experience, understanding and identity; and grow personally, spiritually and intellectually in the Jesuit tradition.

In Mexico, the group started out on the Mexican Pacific Coast, partnering with the organization Human Connections, which provides alternative, educational tours to mostly United States and Canadian tourists to provide direct contact between tourists and local artisans.

“We visited three families of artisans that, for various reasons, had internally migrated from different parts of Mexico,” said Paul. “We ate with them, heard their migration stories and learned about the things that they make and sell.”

The group also volunteered at two sites in Guadalajara. The first was with an organization called CANICA, which works with families who come from different parts of Mexico, such as Jalisco, so their children can receive cancer treatment. The second was with Gardenias Tapatias, an organization that provides relief for the indigent populations of Guadalajara that, at this point, are mostly migrants from the southern states of Mexico and Central America.

“Perhaps the most powerful moment of the trip was when we accompanied the team at Gardenias to give food to folks who were making their way north,” said Paul. “The students were incredibly moved to hear people’s stories and share in this moment with them.”

He added, “That moment has definitely left a lasting impression on our students. Given that most of the group, myself included, was either an immigrant or the child of immigrants, it resonated with us in a way that is hard to describe.”

In the Dominican Republic, the GO team volunteered at a community center called El Centro de Promocion Padre Pedro Gonzalez in the town of Nagua. There, they performed activities with local youth and conducted a census that was largely focused on measuring poverty and religion. They also worked on painting the center.

Both trips were held following a successful Global Outreach Ecuador service trip to the Quito’s Working Boys Center in March. There, students worked with young Ecuadorians studying trades, as well as adults pursuing Spanish literacy.

“I always hope that the trips lead to a student thinking about becoming a long-term volunteer somewhere,” said Paul, adding that, for those unable to give a year abroad, the program inspires greater civic engagement. “I hope people come back and think about what needs to be done at home.”

For more information on the Global Outreach program at Saint Peter’s University, please visit http://saintpetersglobaloutreach.blogspot.com.