Where were you when the ball dropped on Times Square, ushering in 2010?
Eleven students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University rang in the New Year in Chimbote, Peru; putting their faith into action through service.
The trip was sponsored by CSB and SJU Campus Ministry's Alternative Break Experiences (ABE) Program. Students worked with Los Amigos, a faith-based organization dedicated to supporting programs that improve and transform the lives of the poor of Chimbote, Peru. They lived with host families while in Peru and spent their time working in soup kitchens and shelters, helping to build homes, and tutoring children.
Several of the students put their thoughts down on paper when they returned to campus. The words that follow are excerpts from two of the students' reflections.
While in Peru I was in overcome by the strong sense of community. I found that the people of Peru saw God in each other not only in mass. I saw an overwhelming concern for others in the community. My host mother was one of the social workers at the parish and the selflessness she showed left me speechless.
When a fellow CSB student and I arrived at our host family's home, we were treated as though we actually were family. Shortly after arriving, we gave our host family the thank you presents that we bought them. My host mom immediately took the present and said that they would be perfect for the Los Reyes Magos celebration that the parish was having the next day. During this celebration members of the parish go to the homes of the ill and elderly to give them gifts and pray with them. These gifts included towels, shampoo, lotion and other things that the Peruvians could use on an everyday basis.
My roommate Kristal and I went with the parish members to deliver these gifts. The ill and sick who received these small gifts were overjoyed. There was one of the gift recipients that stood out in my mind. This man lived in a stick house on the outskirts of Chimbote. After receiving his gift, this man could not stop crying. This shocked me because the things in his gift were things that I took for granted each day.
My experience has really forced me to think about my possessions - what I actually need and what I'm doing with all of the things I hardly ever use - along with what things I purchase, where I buy them from, and where they are made. I've also given a lot of thought on how to implement changes amongst my family and friends and how to help them best understand how much we have and how little we'd have to do or give up in order to make a small difference. I learned that most people in our world survive on less than $2 a day. If most Americans were to give even a single dollar each day, drastic changes could eventually be made to places like Chimbote, Peru. All it takes is for us to drink one less beer on Friday nights, cut a few minutes out of our shower, or even sacrifice one of our morning cups of coffee.
By experiencing the poverty in Peru, I realized that it really isn't that difficult to give away my "unnecessary" possessions. For instance, after seeing how many of the people wore completely shabby shoes held together with tape, or didn't even have shoes at all, I was compelled to donate my tennis shoes. I own several pairs of shoes; did I really need this specific pair as well? No, I didn't, but someone in Chimbote did. This service trip has encouraged me to lead a simpler life and focus more on attaining community and strong relationships, which are extremely prevalent in Chimbote and something that I realized America is lacking.