A note from the editor: This is a response to an Opinion Article from our last issue about mission trips and social media. The Saint loves to receive letters to the editor and publishes well-written responses in the hopes of continuing positive conversations. If you want to submit a letter email email@example.com.
By Kelli Adrian, Reader
I am writing this letter in response to the article: “Mission trips should be for service, not social media.” I recently co-led the New Orleans Service Learning Trip in which we serve at St. Peter Claver Elementary School. At the school we help the teachers however possible, whether it be grading papers, making bulletin boards, or even teaching lessons to the students. My absolute favorite part of the trip, however, is getting to know the students. The kids at this school are so loving and welcoming to you. After the first day, they treat you like you are their best friend. I attended this trip last spring and knew after the first day that I had to return to see my preschoolers again. I was amazed at how many of my now kindergarteners remembered me. I had the opportunity to share the kindergarten classroom with a girl who had helped the kindergarteners over the fall trip. I wish you could have seen the look on their faces when the kids saw her and happily yelled “You came back!”
I don’t post pictures from the trip for the likes or for any sort of recognition. I post these pictures because they make me happy. These pictures remind me of some wonderful kids who let me into their classroom for a week. It is amazing how it only takes a week for you to fall in love with these kids and with their community. New Orleans has a way of making visitors feel loved and accepted. It has a way of making visitors feel at home. The communities we visit are filled to the brim with culture and faith. I feel honored to have the opportunity to learn more about another individuals culture and to be able to appreciate it. It is called a Service LEARNING trip for this exact reason. I go into this trip knowing that I am gaining so much from this opportunity. I know that I didn’t “sacrifice” anything to come on this trip. I would MUCH rather be hanging out with some amazing kindergarteners than sitting on a lame beach. I also know that I am not “saving” these students from anything. They have teachers and families who already love and support them. However, if I can come and help a teacher catch up with grading or help a student catch up on schoolwork while also showing them love, then that is exactly what I am going to do. A trip isn’t always about repairs and work projects, so no, I can’t post a before and after picture of a project that didn’t exist. It also isn’t up to you to decide if an individual is completing a trip as a resume builder or if they are there for the right reasons.
It is ridiculous to label anyone and everyone who attends a service learning trip and posts pictures of it as someone who suffers from the white savior complex. Are there individuals who do post these pictures to make themselves look better? Absolutely. However, there are also people like me who post these pictures with their love for the kids in mind. Therefore I will continue to unapologetically post these pictures. I know in my heart that I am attending these trips so that I can help others to the best of my ability, yet I am also aware of the fact that I am learning so much on these trips. When you have gone on a service trip, you are sure to feel the same way about the amazing communities that welcome you and the memories you make there.