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Loyola students hold summer camp in Belize

August 28, 2009

Loyola student Joseph Fleming helps children make Mardi Gras masks.

Twelve Loyola University New Orleans students participating in the Ignacio Volunteers Program recently returned from a two-week summer camp in Belize in Central America. The Rev. Ted Dziak, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry, led the service immersion trip, along with Joe Goddu, ’08, and Jamaican resident Peter Stewart.

More than 200 local primary school students in the small rural Caribbean town of Dangriga participated in the camp, called “Umadagu Lescuelena,” held at Sacred Heart Primary School. Each class had a local Belizean and a Loyola student co-teaching. Students took classes on arts and crafts, English and math each morning and played basketball, soccer and volleyball on the school’s playing fields each afternoon.

The goal of the program is to provide an international volunteer service opportunity for Loyola students while exposing them to pressing economic and sociological issues in the Caribbean and the developing world.

The volunteers spent the spring semester preparing for the trip intellectually, financially and spiritually, learning about Belizean culture and the people they would serve, fundraising for travel and participating in local community service. This is the 16th year Dziak has led the summer camp in Belize.

“When I first met my students, many were very hesitant to answer questions, but by the time camp ended they were jumping out of their desks to be recognized. This transformation was enough to make every second of preparation worthwhile,” said Rebecca Gardner, one of the student volunteers. “Service does more than just give you a task to complete; it teaches you how to live for others and humble yourself for the greater glory of God.”

During their time in Belize, the Ignacio Volunteers immersed themselves in the Belizean culture, with visits to Mayan ruins, the rain forest, caves, rivers and waterfalls. They also spent time in a Mayan village without electricity and running water.

Further trips to Jamaica and Belize and other possible locations are planned for 2009-2010.

For more information on the Ignacio Volunteers Program, which is operated by the Office of Mission and Ministry, visit the program Web site or e-mail igvols@loyno.edu.

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