Spring Break L.O.V.E Trip Recap

by MEGAN DREHER& VICTORIA HERNANDEZ,  Editor and Senior Writer

Over Spring Break, Manhattan College students had the opportunity to participate in L.O.V.E service trips, spreading the Lasallian message of service across the globe. The students below had the opportunity to speak to the Quadrangle about their time abroad, what they learned, and most importantly, what these trips meant to them.

L.O.V.E. Jamaica

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 4.42.35 PM
The L.O.V.E. Jamaica group visited Mustard Seed communities during their stay. SARA NAESSIG / COURTESY

Sara Naessig, ‘19

A Typical Day

“The trip to Jamaica entailed us visiting various Mustard Seed communities. The communities housed people of all ages and varying disabilities that were either brought to these establishments by the government or were just abandoned on the Mustard Seeds’ doorstep. Everyday we would wake up super early and feed the residents at Sophie’s Place breakfast (the Mustard Seed community that we stayed at). Most of the residents, with the exception of a few, weren’t able to feed themselves, walk on their own, or communicate verbally. After we would feed them, we would leave on our bus to go to visit the people at another Mustard Seed location. Depending on the day, we would get the chance to hang out and play games with the people in that community or we would continue our work project of building an irrigation canal for one of the Mustard Seed villages. Sometimes, we would stay at the mustard seed all day and have dinner at that location, and other times we would come back to Sophie’s Place and feed the residents dinner and then have our own food. Every night we would participate in night devotion with the residents before we helped put them to bed. Night devotion consisted of us singing a compilation of upbeat songs and a prayer before they went to bed.”

“The second day we went to a Mustard seed community that houses teenage HIV/AIDs boys who really love playing soccer. Naturally, Doug Huntington and myself, the two soccer junkies, played a very competitive 3v3 game. The goals were two U-shaped pipes tied together and the field was a blacktop with some big potholes. Despite the playing conditions, these kids developed a great set of skills that made it challenging to keep up! It was very humbling to see how these boys were making the best of the situation they were in.”

What Was Learned

“When I originally came to Jamaica, I felt bad for living a pretty privileged life and not realizing that my ‘rough day’ could be another’s ‘every day.’ As the week progressed, I learned that I shouldn’t feel this guilt, rather I should learn to live life in an appreciative manner just like the residents. The residents of all the Mustard Seed communities that we went to taught me how to find happiness in the littlest of things whether it be a very sub-par story about Scooby Doo or a meaningless penny, they always saw and appreciated that object or that story so much more than I ever did before. I also learned that humans are capable of even more strength than I ever imagined. To wake up every day in their condition, yet find the light of any situation, was breathtaking and motivational. They helped me find part of my inner strength that I’ve been blind to all these years and has given me this newfound confidence that I hope to incorporate in my everyday life.”

L.O.V.E. Palestine

Shimul Miah, ‘18 – Trip Leader

Leading L.O.V.E.

”This trip made history for Manhattan College as the first L.O.V.E. trip to the Middle East. I learned the importance of not generalizing groups of people based on perceptions portrayed in the media. Most importantly, I learned that there are many misconceptions about the Israeli and Palestinian people within the media and it is essential to understand the truth about the region and the people there. I learned the significance of separating the people from the conflict and their government’s interest because most likely those interests do not protect the interests of the citizens. I also learned the importance of empowering the youth and promoting peace through nonviolence to resolve long lasting conflicts.”

Biggest Impact

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 4.45.27 PM
This spring, L.O.V.E. Palestine made history as the first group to ever travel to the Middle East. SHIMUL MIAH / COURTESY

“We met with Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace (Parents Circle) and with their two most proactive members: A Palestinian Christian and a Israeli Jew, both of whom have lost their children to the violence of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Despite the differences of division and hatred created amongst them by their societal conditions, they chose to forgive one another and both have been working together for the past 20 years. Their courage, strength, pain, losses and forgiveness exemplified the importance of advocating for promoting peace, addressing social justice and opposing violence.”

Melissa Gallardo, ‘19

On the Ground

“We heard stories from Palestinians who’s land was taken by the Israeli government, we heard from various organizations such as the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) BADIL, a Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugees, the YWCA of Palestine, the Tent of Nations, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and more. When each organization presented to us, they all sent the same message: respect. Respect for international law, respecting the right of return of all persons and respect of human rights and human dignity. The most impactful part of the trip, for me, was visiting the city of Hebron and Bethlehem. Hebron is the largest city in the West Bank and is a sanctuary for the Abrahamic faiths.”

“Palestinians are stripped of their human rights. Their land is taken away, many of them don’t have access to the nearby water supply because it is under Israeli control and are extremely limited in movement because of the checkpoints. Almost everything needs a permit from construction and renovations on their homes to visiting the city of Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territory of Israel. We walked along the Bethlehem wall and most of the art and graffiti was in English. It’s meant for foreigners to read. It was a cry for help to tear down this wall that divides up the territory and to free Palestine. The LOVE program is known for its service but this trip was completely different. I observed division; division of people, division of culture and division of faith. Beyond the division, I observed unity and hope. The unity of the Palestinian people and hope that there is a solution to the ongoing catastrophe and conflict.”

L.O.V.E. Dominican Republic

Julia Jenkins, ‘18 – Trip Leader

“For our L.O.V.E Trip to the DR it entailed months of preparation to start off with. We met once a week since November to get to know each other and to prepare for what we would be experiencing in the DR. Since we were working with the Mustard Seed Communities we focused on what they do. They are an organization which cares for the most vulnerable such as individuals with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, down syndrome, deaf and blind individuals, teen mothers, and those infected with HIV. Our meetings were focused on preparing ourselves with how we would be interacting with the residents. While we were down there, we fed every meal to the residents and then worked on different work projects in between. We painted, gardened, helped prepare meals, clean dishes, and helped with the laundry.”

“The best experience I had was being able to meet to residents and learn their stories. The one resident who really stuck out to me was a 28-year-old female named Manllely. She was born without any disabilities and was attending college when she had a stroke. Because of some genetic issues as well as poor medical care she ended up severely disabled. She still remembers her life before she was in the state she is in now. She would tell us where she was from, about her family, and that she wanted to be a lawyer. But, she was so unbelievably kind and seemed very happy. It still blows my mind to think that could be me in her shoes and I don’t think I would be able to handle it with the grace she does. She inspires me to be more thankful for what I have and to appreciate the people I have in my life. It was a very humbling week.”

“I would absolutely recommend a L.O.V.E trip to any MC student. There are so many options for where someone could go as well as the type of trip it is. There are service opportunities, cultural immersion opportunities, and a blend of both. And the connection that you make with your fellow students who you go on these trips with is amazing. The people I went on my trips with have been some of the best people I have ever met at MC.”

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 4.46.10 PM
After months of preparation, L.O.V.E. DR partipants met residents of Mustard Seed Communities while completing several projects in the community. JULIA JENKINS / COURTESY