January 02, 2015
Communications and Marketing
On Friday, Jan. 2, 118 students will leave the Hilltop behind to volunteer at service sites around the country and internationally including 20 students headed to Orland, Maine. For 25 years, Saint Anselm students have traveled during winter and spring breaks to serve others, and it all started at the 0rganization H.O.M.E. in 1991 in rural Orland.
This year the Office of Campus Ministry kicks off that 25th anniversary of its Service & Solidarity Mission Program with service trips to Camden and Vineland, N.J., Manchester, N.H., New Orleans, La., Center Point, W.V. (Appalachia trip), Washington, D.C., and the Dominican Republic, in addition to Maine.
These groups work in soup kitchens, shelters, and schools. They build homes, and work with children and adults suffering from hunger, homelessness, and poverty as well as health and educational disparities. See the full descriptions on the Service & Solidarity blog.
"Throughout their week of service, prayer, and reflection, students step beyond their comfort zone and ask themselves meaningful questions about who they want to be in the world," says Director of Campus Ministry Susan Gabert.
"I have been so blessed to journey along side so many students through this program and been witness to some wonderful transformations, as they grow in their understanding of what it means to be human, to be virtuous, to be a person of faith, and to be people who seek justice...I hope that they [this years group] continue to experience transformations."
This year's Winter Break Alternative (WBA) includes a first-time trip to Nazareth Farm in the Appalachian region where students will assist with home repairs, farm chores, and community outreach.
Trips are led by 16 student-leaders who spend eight months prior training in cultural sensitivity, crisis management, Catholic Social Teaching, and group dynamics. The leaders collaborate with Campus Ministry staff in managing fundraising efforts and trip details, and selecting participants. Invested in the Service & Solidarity Mission Program, they also assist with spring break alternative trips.
In addition to student leaders and participants, two college staff members, Andrew Fellows from Campus Ministry and Claudia Cardenas, a lecturer in the Modern Languages Department, join the students at Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos in the Dominican Republican.
Every trip challenges students in different ways says leader Shane Matthews '15.
"Each Service and Solidarity Missions trip provides a unique experience that is often difficult to put into words but life changing nonetheless. The group dynamic, the site, and the amazing people that the group encounters during the week are what makes the S&S program so amazing," says Matthews.
Since 1991, the program has evolved to include additional trips, new sites, more students and different processes for leader selection; they're always making adjustments.
Gabert began coordinating the program during the 1997-1998 academic year and immediately planned the first international trip to Costa Rica. Since then, students have travelled to destinations as far away as Peru, Texas, Arizona and South Dakota, and as close by as Massachusetts, New York and New Hampshire. The number of students participating has grown from 19 students in 1991, to 220 in 2015- encompassing more than 10% of the college student body. 151 members of the Class of 2014 (or 41% of the class) participated in a Service & Solidarity trip at least once during their four years at Saint Anselm.
Reflecting on the evolution of the program, Gabert says, "I'm overwhelmed with a variety of emotions, but mostly a feeling of great love and joy. These students are great witnesses of true Christian compassion and love. I am truly a better, person and a better minister because of the students who have taught me so many lessons over the years."
"I think it is truly special that Saint Anselm has been providing student-led Service & Solidarity trips for 25 years and it has been an honor to be part of the experience," says Matthews.