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Faculty and staff join Ignacio Volunteers on immersion trip to Belize

June 3, 2011

While the Office of Mission and Ministry’s Ignacio Volunteers are no strangers to communities in Belize, this year’s immersion trip included for the first time a diverse cross-section of faculty and staff who spent nine days traveling around the country visiting and helping Mayan villages and schools.

Thirteen faculty and staff from Loyola University New Orleans and the University of New Orleans and one student assistant, all led by Mission and Ministry Vice President the Rev. Ted Dziak, S.J., and Loyola Institute for Ministry Director Tom Ryan, Ph.D., returned in May from the trip which focused on assisting rural communities in Belize. In between painting a school in one of the villages and meeting with religious and country leaders, the group also had the opportunity to explore the rain forest and cayes.

“The goal of the trip was to give our faculty and staff a better understanding of Loyola’s Catholic and Jesuit mission, particularly how it is carried out in Belize,” said Ryan “The trip was a success in expected and unexpected ways. As we anticipated, participants learned more about Loyola's Jesuit and Catholic identity and its implications for them personally and professionally. What was unexpected was the community that developed out of a diverse group of faculty and staff.”

Loyola has maintained a strong presence in Belize for nearly a decade. Since 2002, LIM has been running the LIMEX extension program there, with graduates now in leadership positions throughout the country. Loyola faculty and staff were able to meet face to face with teachers and students in the program that they previously had connected with only through email.

Brian Sullivan, online learning librarian and library liaison to LIMEX, met one of the students he had worked with via email on the second night of the trip.

“When I met him, I knew the trip was worth it,” Sullivan said. “I can now put a face to an email and he can tell other students he met me.”

The group visited the town of Dangriga and the Mayan village of San Jose, both home bases for the Ignacio Volunteer program. Dziak has been facilitating camps there since 1991, through his career, first at Boston College, then St. George’s College in Jamaica, and now through Loyola. About 250 primary-school students attend the camps staffed with 10 Loyola college volunteers and Belizean co-teachers.

“This was just an incredible experience both professionally and personally,” said Anna Duggar, Ph.D., director of forensic chemistry at Loyola. “I have come back to work feeling inspired and recommitted to the Loyola community.”

Director of Nursing Ann Cary, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., said meeting local children while painting San Luis Rey School was her favorite part of the trip. “I really enjoyed engaging the children and sharing in our mutual curiosity about one another. We worked hard to paint, brighten and freshen up their school just for them.”

Several staff and faculty formed lasting bonds on the trip and hope to advance Loyola's mission in new and creative ways in the future. There are already plans to send supplies to the schools, such as used laptops and computers.

“There is no question I want to go back and contribute to the future of that country,” said Kendra Reed, associate professor in the College of Business.

“The people I traveled with from Loyola are my friends for life,” said Jerilyn Richoux, systems analyst. “I know I can go to them at any time for any thing and they will be there for me. I feel very, very fortunate and grateful for this wonderful experience.”

Also on the trip were Brian Barnes, director of the Law Library; Laura Beatty, student services coordinator for the School of Mass Communication; Sean Cain, assistant professor in political science; Patrick Chriss, multimedia technician for the School of Nursing; Ricardo Marquez, assistant director of the Jesuit Center; Eric Walsh, administrative assistant in the Jesuit Center; and Jeff Ramon, a religious studies senior who assisted Dziak and Walsh with the logistics of the trip.

For more information, contact the Jesuit Center/Office of Mission and Ministry at 504-865-2304 or igvols@loyno.edu, or visit the webpage at http://mm.loyno.edu/volunteer-service/belize-facultystaff-experience

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