During the College’s recent Mardi Gras break, 44 students and 10 faculty and staff advisors traveled on the annual International Service Immersion Program (ISIP) spring trip to five locations in Central America and the Caribbean. Since 2004, ISIP, through the Center for Campus Ministry, has continued to integrate learning, faith, justice and service through powerful international service opportunities for Spring Hill College students.
The volunteers ultimately traveled in five separate groups to each specific location to provide a variety of needed services through partner programs and with local parish support.
In Punta Gorda, Belize, a volunteer group worked with St. Peter Claver, the local Jesuit parish, in two rural villages, painting at a school and also working on a drainage project for another school.
ISIP members once again partnered with Hand in Hand Ministries in Managua, Nicaragua to build a portion of a home for a local family. This group also provided aid for Hand in Hand Ministry's scholarship program, Pathways to Change, which gives educational assistance and tutoring to children so they may attend local private schools. This program allows those children to complete high school and go on to further studies, which is nearly impossible in the impoverished local public school.
The Granada, Nicaragua group traveled with the International Samaritan program to learn more about the families who work in the trash dump in the town of Nadnaime. International Samaritan has worked with a local doctor who has put a community health program in place that supports “garbage dump dwellers” by giving them nutritional support, housing, education access and preventive health care. These families barely survive by digging through the city dump for recyclables to sell. Students built shelter with one of the families, visited schools and shadowed the doctor in the local clinic.
In Belize City, volunteers built a house for a single mother suffering with severe mental illness through Hand in Hand Ministry's Building for Change program. The simple 15x15 structure will dramatically increase the care received by this woman and her family. Afterwards, the group was able to visit the new Fowler Community Center, Hand in Hand Ministry's facility that serves children with HIV/AIDs and also socially supports the families living in poverty.
Partnering with the Caribbean Social Immersion Program, ISIP members visited the sugar plantations on the east side of the Dominican Republic. Most of the workers there are Haitians or Dominicans of Haitian descent, which are considered stateless after the Dominican Republic passed a law revoking citizenship. The group learned through the immersion experience about the incredible hardships these people currently face and met Jesuits and religious leaders who are working to protect their rights.