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SERVE: Community Connections
SERVE: Community Connections
Volunteers helped build affordable housing for a family in need.
2012, Randolph-Macon College students built a house—and some relationships, too.
Students enrolled in
Professor Beth Gill’s course, Human Rights in the Global Village, spent two weeks in El Salvador building affordable housing for a family in need. The journey, arranged in conjunction with the Habitat for Humanity Global Village Program, immersed participants in the Salvadorian culture.
J-term in El Salvador
for a slideshow of photos from the trip.
Devon Maust ’12
during the trip, was deeply affected by the experience.
“I expected to help build a house, but I never imagined that I would build relationships,” wrote Maust. “From the first day, the community shared with us parts of the Salvadorian culture that tourists don’t get to see. In two weeks we built a ‘family’ from two different cultures with many differences, but also with many similarities. Together we created a story that will always be a part of me.”
Maust and her classmates—
Mark Josey ’12
Elizabeth Luminoso ’13
Elanya Chin ’13
Andrea West ’14
Mary Margaret Petersen ’13
Cara DeCesare ’13
—were joined by
Kathleen Chapman ’10
, Professor Gill, and Christina Brown Cozart, associate director of
residence life and housing
“Those days in El Salvador reminded me of the importance of community and love,” says Cozart. “We will never forget the masons who taught us and the homeowners who welcomed us into their country and into their hearts.”
Sociology Professor Reber Dunkel, the coordinator of Students Engaged in Responsible Volunteer Experiences (
), says the trip was “an extraordinary opportunity for students to donate their time and skills to others. With nails, hammers—and a lot of heart—our students learned not only practical construction skills and about human rights, but also helped improve the living conditions in an impoverished Central American country that went through a violent, deadly civil war between 1980 and 1992. They connected to local people in a way that tourists cannot do.”
Travelers also visited a local school, traveled throughout the country and toured a museum dedicated to El Salvador’s 12-year civil war. Elanya Chin ’13, who blogged during the trip, packed her bags full of memories for the return trip home:
“What I will remember and hold in my heart: the people, the places, the food, the culture, the colors, the community, and the generosity of El Salvador,” wrote Chin. “From now on, I’m going to let what I do speak louder and more effectively than my messy words, which grasp at unexplainable feelings and emotions.”
It was Gill’s first time in El Salvador.
“This experience afforded each of us the opportunity to abandon the familiar, which no longer made sense, and experience moments of selflessness and complete openness,” says Gill, the Charles J. Potts Professor of Social Science. “In helping to build a home, we confronted life face- to-face through the daily routines of the Habitat family members, the stories of civil war survivors, memorials to the dead, and the suffering of the poor. These moments offered the opportunity to open our minds to the interconnectedness and preciousness of life. I was impressed by our students’ willingness, fueled by Christina’s enthusiasm and encouragement, to ‘poke holes in the clouds’ of their lives, pause and fearlessly learn more about themselves and others by opening up to the joys, delights and sorrows of the Salvadorian people. We learned about family, suffering, laughter and, of course, ourselves. The experience humbled me.”
R-MC has a tradition of service-learning J-term trips. In 2006, students traveled to New Orleans to help repair houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, R-MC Chaplain Darrell Headrick and
Professor Ira Andrews traveled with 30 students to Espiritu Santo Brazil, where they helped finish construction and paint a dormitory at a United Methodist youth camp. In addition, Headrick and Andrews have made several trips to Guatemala, where they and their students built stoves and worked on reforestation.
R-MC Habitat of Humanity Chapter
will travel in March to Albany, Georgia for their annual Spring Break Trip to build with the Flint River Habitat for Humanity Affiliate. Currently, the Chapter is busy fundraising and preparing for Act, Speak, Build Week and
Macon a Difference Day
, both of which will take place on Saturday, April 21, 2012.
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