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Ignacio Volunteers have life-changing experiences through service in Belize, Jamaica

Loyola press release - September 19, 2013

Over the summer, 30 Loyola University New Orleans students immersed themselves in a new country, giving a whole new meaning to the word “service.” Fifteen Loyola students participated in a 10-day service trip to Kingston, Jamaica in May while another 15 students traveled to Belize from late July to mid-August. The students served as Ignacio Volunteers, a program of Loyola’s Office of Mission and Ministry.

In Belize, more than 200 local primary children participated in the two-week Ignacio Volunteer 'Umadagu Lescuelana' Summer Camp—founded by the Rev. Ted Dziak, S.J., Loyola vice president for Mission and Ministry, more than 20 years ago—at Holy Ghost School, a small Catholic primary school in the town of Dangriga. The Loyola students worked with Belizean co-teachers and taught classes in English, math, and arts and crafts in the mornings. In the afternoons, the students led a sports program in basketball, soccer and volleyball.

The 23-day Belizean immersion experience for the Loyola students also included visits to Mayan ruins, waterfalls, the rainforest and a school painting project in a small rural Mayan village.

“After camp I wasn’t the same person and I never will be,” said Loyola sophomore Philip O’Rourke. “I don’t think it is possible to go back to my previous way of life. I realize now that this trip never took me out of my element, it put me in it.”

Fifteen Ignacio Volunteers traveled to Kingston, Jamaica in May to serve displaced elderly and disadvantaged youth in tough urban areas of the capital city. The Loyola students worked each day with pre-primary and primary school children at two small schools located at Riverton City, a shanty town at the Kingston dump. The volunteers also worked with Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity who facilitate a home for abandoned and sick elderly in urban Kingston.

“Everything that happened on this experience mattered. Everything had a purpose. What we did for others mattered. But that is not important compared to what others did for us. What matters is how we learned, how we grew, how we changed,” said sophomore Philip Kane.

The two goals of the Ignacio Volunteers program are to serve and to learn. Before their trips, the 30 Loyola students and staff met weekly learning about the country, the culture and the people from whom they would learn and with whom they would serve. In addition, they raised money through fundraising activities and participated in local service projects. The volunteers truly became men and women for and with others as they participated in these international service projects with the people of Belize and Jamaica.

The Jamaica program included students Nick Carlisi, Matthew Higginbotham, Philip Kane, Savannah Logan, Magin Maier ‘13, Karen Miranda, Matthew Moldthan, Devina Parker ‘13, Catherine Pugh, Robbie Renfurm, Margaret Vienne ‘13, Vanessa Onstad and Kirsten Wee. Loyola staff Brooks Zitzmann and Edwin Madera joined the group.

The Belize program included students Kendall Cousin, Shannon Donaldson, Carlisa Jackson, Chad Miltenberger, Sharon Moscoso, Philip O’Rourke, Amanda Osei, Samuel Rottman, Sarah Scalese, Sam Thomas and Annie McClure. Loyola staff Jeff Castille, Peter Stewart, Sola Gilbert and Dziak joined the group.