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Ignacio volunteers serve abroad in Belize and Jamaica during Christmas break

February 1, 2013

Some went with their baseball gloves in hand; others went prepared to go without electricity or running water. They all went with a commitment to serve others. Thirty-three Loyola University New Orleans students and staff traveled to Belize and Jamaica as a part of the university’s Ignacio Volunteer Programs. The groups coached children on a rural Mayan baseball team, taught children at a Belize Christmas camp and worked with young children in the burned victims unit at the Bustamante Hospital in Jamaica.

The 33 Loyola students and staff spent the fall semester preparing for their trip, learning about the country, the culture and the people they would learn from and serve with. In addition, they raised money through fundraising activities and participated in local community service projects to build their community. The volunteers put Loyola’s mission to become men and women for and with others into practice in the international service trips.

In Belize, 15 Loyola students and five staff facilitated two Christmas camps for local primary school children in rural Mayan villages. In the village of Santa Cruz, six student-athletes from the Loyola baseball team shared their baseball skills with young Mayan children who had never played or even seen a baseball game. Bringing down bats, gloves and baseballs donated by the team for the entire camp of more than 100 children, each afternoon was spent playing tee ball or trying to catch a fly ball.

“My kids were all so excited to learn something new,” said Loyola baseball player and psychology senior Tony Asta. “It made teaching them baseball easy and fun, not to mention they were naturals because they are all so athletic. I think they loved learning baseball.”

Another nine Loyola students taught and coached nearly 100 primary school children at a second camp site in Santa Cruz. Living in villages without electricity or running water, the Loyola students had to bathe in the river and sleep on mats on the ground at the local church, which served as their dormitory.

“The kids were so full of energy and excitement, it was impossible for me not to be bursting with energy too,” said volunteer and communications junior Katie Sloan. “The trip was phenomenal. I learned so much about myself throughout these nine days, as well as the country and people of Belize.”

In both of the camps, the villages welcomed the Loyola students with handmade tortillas, caldo and other local food as well as with Mayan cultural music and dance using marimba and guitars. One interesting experience of the Ignacio Volunteers was celebrating the end of the Mayan calendar, Dec. 21—overblown by some as the day the world would end. The Loyola volunteers celebrated the day with the Mayan people in dance and prayer.

Thirteen Ignacio Volunteers also traveled to Jamaica to serve elderly and mentally/physically challenged young people in the urban areas of Kingston. Loyola students worked each day at homes run by Brothers of the Poor, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and with young children at the Bustamante Hospital in the burned victims unit. The work was hard and tough, yet they learned as they served.

“This trip made me realize that service is something I love doing and something I want to continue to do as long as I live,” volunteer and criminal justice junior Elyse Degree said.

The Jamaica program included students Emily Bauer, Maggie Conley, Jeff Coote, Elyse Degree, Michael Gallaty, Shan’Tra Henry, Bridget Kratz, Joseph McCoy, Michael Olausen, Emily Szklarski, Malerie Thornton and Rachel White. The Rev. Gregg Grovenburg, S.J., associate chaplain for faith formation and sacraments for the Office of Mission and Ministry, also attended.

The Belize program included students Daniel Afanador, Anthony Asta, Bradley Brunet, Amelia Broussard, Mayleen Cabral, Jeffery Castille Katherine Collier, Libby Collyer, Brooke Hagler, Jordan Harbaugh, Michael Pfister, Brian Reaney, Justin Romaire, Catherine Sloan and Charles Whitman. Jesuit Center staff included Edwin Madera, Eric Walsh, Peter Stewart, David McChesney, and the Rev. Ted Dziak, S.J., vice president for Mission and Ministry.

For more information on the Ignacio Volunteer Programs, visit the website or e-mail igvols@loyno.edu.

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