By Eric Villanueva ’11
Summer bears different meanings for different people.
For most, it’s a break from the rat race of school and sports, but for some students, summer means volunteer trips – Canada, El Salvador, West Virginia, Mexico, Peru and now Kenya.
Twelve students along with faculty chaperones Mr. Brad Shear and Mr. Matt Hooten will travel halfway around the world to build a primary school and a well in the village of Narok, Kenya July 9-23.
“We are (going) over there to try to be great ambassadors of Brophy and to try to make a difference in the community,” Mr. Shear said.
Of course, no difference could be made or work done without longstanding connections and experience in working in this impoverished region, so Brophy isn’t walking in alone.
Brophy is partnering with Me to We, a social enterprise that offers trips to Kenya, Ecuador and India in exchange for donations to the Free the Children charity. Trip participants volunteer in the Maasai tribal region, which borders Tanzania in southwestern Kenya.
Me to We is “an organization which has been working with and living in these communities for a long time,” said Mrs. Kim Baldwin, assistant principal for ministry. “They build their trips similarly to how we build our trips.”
Parents should be assured that Me to We and Brophy’s first priority is the safety of their students, which is one reason Brophy partnered with Me to We.
According to Mrs. Baldwin, an African immersion trip had been in the workings for awhile, but there were concerns about walking in without local, community connections.
The logistics were solved earlier this year when Mr. Jim Harrison, a parent of a Brophy alumnus who went to Kenya last year, recommended the Me to We trip.
In cooperation with Me to We staff in Kenya, students will spend most of the two weeks working in solidarity with Maasai villagers to build a primary school and a well to provide clean, safe drinking water – two luxuries in that region of Kenya, according to Mr. Shear.
Students will also explore the Maasai tribal culture with Swahili lessons, lessons on poverty-related issues in Africa and a safari.
“Specific to Africa, (the objective is for students) to move beyond an awareness of the problems in the communities of Africa to how we may be connected to them and what we can do for them,” Mrs. Baldwin said.
Last month, the online application for the trip was posted under summer immersion trips on the Office of Faith and Justice Web site.
So far, the response has been “unexpected” and “surprising” with 19 students who have expressed interest, according to Mrs. Baldwin.
However, the $5,000 all-inclusive cost, which mostly accounts for the cost of airfare, may deter some students.
Like the Peru and West Virginia immersion trips, the Africa trip offers 25 Junior Justice Project hours to incoming juniors, but graduating seniors may also apply.
The OFJ is “not committed to continuing this relationship (with Me to We) past this year,” Mrs. Baldwin said. But, “as long as the experience is as good as we hope it to be, we will offer it again.”
Though the overseas immersion trip is at the forefront right now, the earthquake last month in Haiti has caused some students to ponder the possibility of a Haitian immersion trip.
As of Jan. 29, there were no plans on the table for such a trip because there isn’t a lack of volunteers in Haiti, but a lack of supplies and a challenge of getting there, Mrs. Baldwin said Jan. 29.
“It is such a natural reaction right now, but we need to see how things play out over time,” she said.
Mrs. Baldwin said the OFJ would explore the option within the next year and if a trip was planned, the OFJ would probably go through Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, which has numerous operations already inside Haiti.