By Ryan Peterson
Spring break isn’t for a few more months, but some students already have their plan.
Cecelia Monto, Chemeketa’s director of evening and weekend programs, is organizing the HUM140: International Community Service in Action class’s spring break trip to Nicaragua–and she already has three students who are interested in joining her again.
The students will be working with AMOS Health and Hope, the organization they worked with during spring break a year ago, to provide a week of health services in Nicaragua, the poorest country in Latin America.
Monto said, “This year we are working … to provide health information and treatment to the children of Nicaragua.”
Jessica Flores, a third-year student, said that she was excited about the trip and wanted to go again.
“It was a really good experience last year,” Flores said. “I work at a pre-school, and it was good to see children in another country.”
Many of the children in Nicaragua don’t have access to education, which children in America may take for granted.
Serefin Garcia, another third-year student, also said that he wanted to go again.
Garcia said the spring break choices that a student typically might have were to “party in Cancun or do this community service project. I choose the service project.”
Participants said that the trip was not a ticket to party; instead, it’s a ticket for a humbling and rewarding experience.
Alejandra Gallegos, a second-year student who is planning to again go on the community service trip, said that many different types of people would benefit from the experience.
Gallegos said, “Everyone should do it once. It’s helpful for everyone, and it can help you with work and studies.”
Monto said, “It’s excellent for international business and medical majors, but it’s also for everyone. We have a global economy, and global awareness is necessary.”
Gallegos said that everything involving the world economy was tied together.”
Flores offered this bit of advice: “Any student who has an opportunity to go overseas should take it. You become more aware and see how people in another country live.”
At least some students indicated that they would like to do something like this but were afraid for a variety of reasons, including the language barrier.
Garcia said, “Not knowing the language shouldn’t stop you. Do not be afraid of language barriers.”
Last year, several Chemeketa students who made the trip were fluent in Spanish; and although there is no guarantee that as many Spanish-speakers will go, there are other ways of communicating and plenty of people who can translate.
Some students, as well as their parents, have expressed some concerns for the potential dangers involved.
Monto said, “We are always safe, and the group is always together.”
Monto’s words were echoed by Garcia. “I never felt in danger, and we were always together,” he said.
For added assurance, if the college did not believe that the trip was safe, it would cancel and refund all money except airfare, which is an airline policy, according to Monto.
Monto said that the trip costs $1,999; the figure includes tuition, lodging, meals, transport, and airfare.
But Monto, as well as Garcia, Flores, and Gallegos, all said that the experience was more than worth the price tag.
Monto suggested that interested students could start saving or working now to pay for the trip. She also hopes to eventually establish a scholarship for the program so that anyone could go.
Two information sessions about the international community service project are planned for December.
The first is for mainly medical students and is at 1 p.m. Dec. 3 in Bldg. 4-291.
The second, for all interested students, is at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 7 in Bldg. 2-177A.
Both sessions will feature slides of last year’s project and an opportunity to meet students who attended.
Describing the best part of the trip was hard for Garcia, Flores, and Gallegos. All three agreed, however, that the experience was life-changing, that they now see the world differently, and that they would do it again.
“It was a very beautiful surprise,” Gallegos said, “The internet doesn’t teach you that type of thing, and it humbles you. The Internet cannot be compared to actual experience.”
For more information about the international community service project, students are advised to attend one of the information sessions or contact Cecelia Monto at firstname.lastname@example.org.