Story by Zoë Collenburg
Aquinas College is well known for our dedication to service, but nine students did so much more than serve on their recent service trip to Peru. And they all attested that that was not the only charism they put into action. Community became vital to the experience. Co-leader and senior Elle Nelson confessed that before this service trip she always described service as physical labor, like building a house, but discovered it could truly just be, “community and hospitality- sometimes it is a willingness to spend time with and try to understand another human being.”
Less than a month ago, a group of Aquinas students of various majors, backgrounds, and class years left the comfort of their families and first world homes to serve in Chimbote, Peru. They traveled around Peru serving in an incredible variance of ways alongside locals.
Beginning at a clinic in Chimbote with two Dominican sisters, our students not only helped with physical labor (including tearing down an incinerator), but also played with the children and visited sick patients at their homes. Two students even got to witness one of the four-five daily births at the clinic. Junior Maria Moon imparted that it was “a life changing experience. I started crying because everything was just so emotional and touching.”
Co-leader and senior Jake Eccleston, along with Nelson, both expressed their gratitude and amazement of the two Dominican sisters who ran the large clinic, Sisters Mary Margaret and Lillian. Eccleston was amazed by the love and respect the two women received in their community and by their culture. He recalled how, “the same men that had been birthed in this maternity clinic and now grown to adulthood [would just] come up to them and give them hugs.”
After helping waterproof storage and moving sand around the clinic’s space, the group also spent time in the capital, Lima, learning about the culture and delving into the history of Peru.
Afterwards, the students traveled to Caritas Felices, a home for sexually abused girls in Lurin. They helped clean rooms, the chapel, and their dining hall. Nelson was so impassioned by a young women they met at Caritas Felices, Maryori, who, she informs, “had a passion for languages and acting. She was even teaching herself Japanese with only the help of a Japanese-Spanish dictionary.”
Moon confirmed all suspicions when she declared that, “service learning trips are a part of my life that I will never experience anywhere else. I think learning about different cultures and these experiences are very important. My life goal is to be able go to different countries to serve for others in need. I will never be able to forget this.”
Nelson said it was life altering for her, she was overwhelmed when Sister Mary Margaret “told us she saw Christ’s joy in us, and that made me happier than anything else on the trip.” When asked about his recommendation for others considering Service Learning, Eccleston simply said, “do it.”
Aquinas offers Service Learning trips during Fall and Spring breaks, and two over the summer to Peru and the Dominican Republic. Most of the Fall and Spring trips are national, and applications for the Fall Break trips will be out at the beginning of the semester.
About the Writer…
Zoë Collenburg is a Junior out of state student (hook ’em horns!) double majoring in English and Communication with a Theatre Emphasis. She is the Vice Chair of Student Senate, a Student Ambassador, and an Orientation Leader. She loves coffee, being on stage, and long walks on the beach.