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Loyola students spend Christmas break in service in Jamaica

February 17, 2012

A group of Loyola University New Orleans community members celebrated the new year in Kingston, Jamaica while also aiding the less fortunate.

Thirteen students and staff recently returned from the Jamaica Experience Program, where they performed service at sites with Brothers of the Poor, Riverton Primary School and Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. Twelve students and staff also returned from the Jamaica Christmas camp, where they taught and coached children. The two trips, held during Christmas break, were organized by Loyola’s Office of Mission and Ministry.

In Jamaica, the students volunteered for local Catholic service agencies during their stay, including a home for the displaced and abandoned elderly run by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. Volunteers also worked with children with severe burns at Bustamante Hospital and Riverton Primary School, which is located on the city dump of Kingston. The Jamaica Christmas camp worked at these sites and also held a four day camp at Holy Rosary Primary School, teaching students academic subjects in the morning and playing sports and children’s games in the afternoons.

“Making a child laugh is one of the most rewarding things I have experienced and one of the easiest things for me to do,” said volunteer and Loyola junior Jeff Coote. Student Frances Sweeney said, “I helped one person see his true potential and aspire to fulfill it.”

Some volunteers go to serve and help, others go to learn and others go for personal reasons. Many volunteers have came back with a different outlook on their life, their journey or path, including the most meaningful experiences since they have been at Loyola.

Julio Vega explained his experience in this way, “My experience did not involve a drastic change in my life, but rather a striking reassurance in the current path my life is in. For as long as I can remember, my goal has been to become a doctor,” Vega said.

The volunteers, chosen through a competitive application process, met weekly before the trip to learn about the Jamaican culture, plan camp lessons and find ways to raise funds for their trip. All were required to attend an overnight retreat and day of service prior to the trips.

The goal of the Ignacio Volunteers program is to provide an international volunteer service opportunity for Loyola students. While being exposed to the pressing economic and sociological issues in the Caribbean and the developing world, students provide support and assistance to the children of Jamaica, who are in great need.

The Ignacio volunteers will be returning to Jamaica and Belize this summer. For more information on future Ignacio Volunteers events, e-mail jesuit@loyno.edu or visit the Office of Mission and Ministry's website.

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