Natalie Craig, Staff Writer
This summer, the Lasallian Outreach Volunteer Experience (L.O.V.E) Program is taking students to destinations all over the U.S. to provide social justice-based service. These weeklong programs encourage the four pillars of community, service and social justice, spirituality, and cultural immersion.
Ben Fischer a junior government and philosophy major is the leader for newest L.O.V.E. destination, Chicago, Illinois.
“They’re involved with the Lasallian idea of solidarity, social justice and I think one of the most important factors is being a part of the community,” Fischer said.
Located on the Southside of Chicago, The Brother David Darst Center specializes in social justice education through their Urban Immersion retreats. The program works with social agencies for field experiences such as The Chicago Food Depository, Su Casa, The Port, San Miguel Schools, Chicago Youth Centers, and St. Martin DePorres.
Fischer volunteered with the El Salvador L.O.V.E trip as a freshman, which was a profound experience of growth for him. This is what encouraged him to apply for a leadership position.
“A lot of the issues deal with homelessness, poverty, food insecurity, immigration; the most pervasive issues. I want my team to understand that this an opportunity for personal growth and to have this kind of humanizing experience,” Fischer said.
Caitlin Sullivan a junior history and sociology major is leading the trip to Arizona this summer. This is her second time participating in the program that focuses on immigration issues in the U.S and Mexico.
“It’s not just service-based, it’s very education-based as well. With this trip, you come back with a lot of knowledge.” Sullivan said.
The team meets with Border Patrol; goes on a desert walk, and gets the chance to talk to migrants directly. They attend a deportation hearing through a program called Operation Streamline and get to go across the border to Nogales, Arizona’s largest international border community.
Although this is not the first time the program has been in Arizona, it is the groups first time working with BorderLinks. BorderLinks is a non-profit educational organization in Tucson, Arizona. Their goal is to give participants a full understanding of the U.S. Mexico Borderlands and the lives of those living in U.S. immigrant communities.
“ I think just hearing people and trying to understand their situation has a really big impact. Last year when we were there, people just wanted their stories to be heard,” Sullivan said.
Another program this summer that works with migrant families is L.O.V.E. Florida. Students work through the De La Salle Center in Homestead, Florida.
The goal of the program is to improve education and income for those who utilize the program. They use the Christian Brother’s educational style, striving to provide education to those living in poverty and to humankind in general.
Volunteers help provide tutoring services and provide children with a safe environment as after-school caretakers. These services include English as a Second Language and computer classes.
“I didn’t really know too much about migrant families cope with being here. I figured if immersed myself in it I would learn more from it just from being there,” Michelle Arcede, a junior exercise science Major said.
Arcede, like many other volunteers, is going on a L.O.V.E trip for the first time. The volunteers for the L.O.V.E. are selected through an application process. Then the group meets, prepares, and organizes fundraisers for their trip.
“I hope that I become more open minded for these types of issues and things that are happening in the U.S. Especially in Florida, you don’t realize the problems these people are dealing with. I want to come out of this with new information and a great experience,” Arcede said.
The Texas L.O.V.E. trip takes the students to work as at a specialized summer camp facility for children with chronic illnesses.
Each week provides a different specialized program for children with chronic illnesses such as muscular dystrophy, blood disorders, and cancer. The week- long program for MC volunteers is called Camp Reynal, which serves campers who have kidney disease. The volunteers from Manhattan College work as camp counselors for the week.
“Last year my suitemate and I both got accepted and went on the trip. It was just the best time ever,” Tim Hamling, a sophomore computer science major said.
This is the second time Hamling has gone to Texas with the program but is his first year as a leader of a trip.
The larger organization that provides the resources for Camp Reynal is called Camp John Marc. It works in partnership with Dallas-Fort Worth area pediatric hospitals, community volunteers, and health organizations. The activities are standard camp activities; nature walks, fishing, archery, and rock climbing. All located on a ranch in Meridian, Texas.
“I definitely want to see if I can find those kids from last year and really see how they’ve grown. That’s just my personal goal,” Hamling said.