DALLAS TWP. – Sixty-five Misericordia University students traded their books, lectures and tests for a week of service in areas of the country where poverty is prevalent.
The ministry service trip program at Misericordia University, which took place from March 4-8, exposed students to new lifestyles and environments .
Students picked from five different trips: Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, North Philadelphia; Franciscans for the Poor, Cincinnati, Ohio; City Mission, Schenectady, N.Y.; Habitat for Humanity, Mobile, Ala.; and Mercy Farms, Benson, Vt.
Students learned the value of community service and lessons in humanity.
Junior Stacy Perrins, a health-care management major, called her trip “a life-changing experience.”
Perrins, 21, of Dupont, volunteered with Franciscans for the Poor. She said her week was broken up with different activities each day, including helping to stuff 5,000 envelopes for a fundraiser, helping to cook meals in a Ronald McDonald House, working in a food pantry and in an after-school program.
The adults and children she met changed her point of view on life.
“It really makes you appreciate the things you have,” she said.
Working with elementary-school children in the after-school program, Perrins learned how they have shooting drills, in which the teacher blows a whistle and children take evasive action to protect themselves.
“If it weren’t for this program, these kids would not have a place to go,” she said. “Many of the parents don’t want them home until dark.”
She said the experience left her with a desire to work with inner-city, at-risk children.
Senior accounting major Adam Grzech put his building skills to work with Habitat for Humanity in Mobile, Ala.
“I love building things,” Grzech, 22, of Mountain Top, said. “I wanted to give the most of me to those in need.”
He said he and 29 fellow students volunteered to help build a home for an African refugee family whose members fled to Alabama to escape slavery. Many of the houses in the area were built by Habitat for Humanity, he said.
The family also had to invest a certain amount of hours working to build the home. He did not meet the family, though. During the day, Grzech said, when the family members were working at their jobs, his group was building frames, roofing, or putting on siding. The family did its work at night and on weekends, he said.
“People need a house over their heads to provide for their families,” he said.
After hearing one woman’s story, Alexandra Zara, 19, of Hanover Township, realized how powerful faith can be.
While volunteering at the City Mission in Schenectady, N.Y., Zara attended a devotional in the women’s homeless shelter. There she heard the story of a woman who lost her twin infants shortly after birth.
“Her infants had twin-to-twin transfusion, and she could not afford the surgery,” she said. “The hospital paid for the procedure, but she learned they would not live through the day.”
Zara said the woman turned to her faith and said, “Do as you will, God.”
“It taught me to have more faith,” Zara said.
In a North Philadelphia neighborhood near Temple University, Nick Ametrano, 21, of Kingston volunteered with the Mercy Neighborhood Ministries.
Ametrano was eager to work with the children and found them accepting. He helped with after-school programs that were designed to provide a haven while many parents were working.
The facility also housed an elderly day care and pre-school. He said he was a bit apprehensive about working with the elderly but found it felt like hanging out with his grandparents.
“They shared stories and showed us pictures,” he said. “I learned that just talking means a lot. We are all people, and we all need the same thing.”