Siena Students Learn and Serve Around the World

HNP Communications Features

LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — More than 125 Siena College students, friars and teachers from several campus programs spent Easter/spring break on servant trips both in the United States and abroad. 

Students traveled as far away as Spain, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, and as near as Boston, many spending Holy Week and Easter around the world. 

They worked with poor students in an after-school program in the Dominican Republic, and renovated Habitat for Humanity houses in Crystal Coast, Cape Fear and Greensboro, N.C., and Georgetown, S.C. They reached out to the community at the St. Francis House Outreach Center in Boston, several blocks away from the Province’s St. Anthony Shrine.

The trip to the Dominican Republic was especially significant, said Brian Belanger, OFM, who directs Siena’s International Programs, because it fostered peace and collaboration among young students. It also was run in collaboration with the Franciscan Sisters living there. 

The 10 Siena students, accompanied by Foundations teacher Larry Anderson, OFM, worked with 6-to-9-year-old students in an after-school program in conjunction with the Franciscan Sisters.  Although they worked on typical crafts projects and children’s activities, according to Brian, their underlying message was to teach the spirit of cooperation and getting along. 

Teaching Youngsters the Spirit of Cooperation

“Getting along is a foundation of building a better world,” said Brian. This was especially significant, he said, since there is much violence and family disruption in this beleaguered part of the world. The Siena students, added Larry, were models of cooperation and mentors for the youngsters in how to work together and get along. 

Group activities were done in circles so the young students could witness inclusion and cooperation, according to Brian. 

This was the second time Siena students traveled to the Dominican Republic, and the first time for Larry. Many Siena students, he said, like to travel on servant trips, as a way to learn about the cultures and differences of others in a meaningful way.

Students also went to Chiapas, Mexico, where they learned about local governance, cooperatives and education. They visited a weaver’s cooperative, a center for economic and political research, and a medical organization. 

Dennis Tamburello, OFM,
 who teaches religious studies at Siena, and Mathias Doyle, OFM, director of the college’s Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy, traveled with nine students to St. Francis House a few blocks from the Province’s St. Anthony Shrine. 

Building Houses in North and South Carolina

Another 19 students went to Habitat for Humanity sites to work on houses in Crystal Coast, Cape Fear and Greensboro, N.C., and Georgetown, S.C. 

The servant trips were featured on the college’s radio program, News & Views, on April 5. Host Kevin Mullen, OFM, president of Siena, welcomed students who learned and served during Easter/spring break. The program airs on WVCR every Saturday morning.

Jessica DeLuise from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., was among 10 students who traveled to the Dominican Republic and was featured on the show. 

Students Arthur Infantino from Lake George, N.Y.,  and Jessica Hackett from Pawling, N.Y., also joined Dennis on the radio show to discuss how their service at St. Francis House enhanced their college experience. Dennis said that a service trip 10 years ago enlivened him; before that, he felt there was “something missing” in his life as a friar.

The graphic above is from the evangelization page of Siena College’s Web site.

— Wendy Healy is a freelance writer and occasional contributor to HNP Today.