NEW YORK — Two friars accompanied students from Siena Collegenear Albany, N.Y., and St. Bonaventure University in Upstate New York on a service trip to Jamaica in January to work on projects with the Franciscan Ministries of the Allegany Sisters.
Mathias Doyle, OFM, director of the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy at Siena, and Robert Struzynski, OFM, of Mt. Irenaeus, accompanied the 11 students. The six students from Siena stayed from Jan. 7 to 14, and the five from SBU spent Jan. 7 to 17 in Jamaica. Siena’s associate campus minister Michelle Stefanik and SBU professor Anne Forest also went on the trip.
The students, who paid their own expenses during inter-session, cleaned up, painted, made house repairs and did landscaping in the poor communities near Kingston. They also helped set up a clinic, and visited a senior citizen home, orphanage, school, and arts community. The Franciscan Ministries of the Allegany Sisters, run by Sr. Grace Yap, OSF, provided accommodations and meals at the Immaculata Hostel in Kingston.
It was coincidental that the two groups were there at about the same time, Mathias said.
While working, the students established relationships with the Jamaicans, according to Mathias and Robert, and learned first-hand some of the challenges of working with the poor. At the end of each day, students reflected on their experiences and lessons learned about the social conditions among the poor and displaced.
The students said that they had received far more from their experiences than what they had given, and discussed interest in returning next year. The service trip also sparked interest in volunteer opportunities once they returned to campus.
The Siena trip was co-sponsored by the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy, the college chaplain’s office, and the friar community. The SBU trip was related to the university’s Foundation Course, according to Mathias.
Last month, SBU announced the receipt of an anonymous gift of $1 million from an alumnus to support service learning. The gift will provide annual support to innovative programs that prepare students to lead and serve, according to the university’s Jan. 23 announcement.
SBU president Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, said, “In this time of economic uncertainly, this tremendous gift illustrates the donor’s firm belief in the comprehensive service learning happening across our campus and the activities that benefit economies at the local, national and international level.”