The Maroon

Ignacio Volunteers serve abroad over break

Courtesy of Ignacio Volunteers

Courtesy of Ignacio Volunteers

Courtesy of Ignacio Volunteers

Marie Simoneaux

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While most were sleeping in, lounging around and enjoying winter break, 22 students gave up those few weeks to volunteer as teachers in Jamaica and Belize.

The two groups of Ignacio Volunteers spent their fall semester raising money and preparing for the trips.

Allison Rogers, political science senior and group leader at the Belize Christmas Camp, said that this included weekly meetings to educate the volunteers about the Mayan culture and lifestyle. They were also required to participate in a day of service with children from  local schools along with an overnight retreat.

Students who volunteered in Belize were teaching at a camp located in Mayan villages in Southern Belize. They taught the children of the village math, English and arts and crafts, in addition to playing sports like soccer and volleyball.

Rogers said that not only were the students teaching and playing with the children, they were also completely immersed in the Mayan community. All of the volunteers lived in the traditional huts of the village, ate their foods, and bathed and did laundry in the river.

This trip was Rogers’ second time volunteering in Belize. Because of this, Rogers and another group leader, Brittani Sanchez, biology senior, were able to take away a slightly different perspectives from the experience.

“I was able to renew the feelings that had taken such a special place in my heart, and expand upon my love for the country of Belize and the Mayan village of Santa Cruz,” Rogers said.

While Rogers, Sanchez and eight other students were in Belize at the Christmas Camp, the other 12 Ignacio Volunteers were in Jamaica.

They spent their time serving at The Home for the Destitute and Dying, Bustamante Children’s Hospital and the Missionaries of the Poor Bethlehem Home.

Edwin Unzalu, mass communication sophomore, said that the experience humbled him in many ways.

“As volunteers, we enter these communities and are surprised at what we see and then even more surprised at the fact that these communities take time to see us and build connections with us,” Unzalu said.

Both Rogers and Unzalu said that their experiences were like no other. They said that the opportunity to go to a community with a culture so unlike their own and make a difference truly made up for their shorter break.

“Giving up my break was not too difficult,” Unzalu said. “It was like traveling with your own family.  The volunteers have been bonding with each other all semester. Everyone just wanted to get there and start the experience.”

While it is true that they were giving up their time at home and their few weeks off, Rogers said that in a way, the volunteers’ lives were also changed by those they were sent to help.

“Being able to observe the beauty that Belize has to offer, the hospitality of the families within the villages and the pure joy that comes from working with these children is a truly life-changing experience,” Rogers said, “While each of us did take our break from school to serve others, I think we would all attest to the fact that the villagers served us and helped each and every one of us to grow and learn.”

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Ignacio Volunteers serve abroad over break