Students take tenth annual DOVE trip to El Salvador

Fifteen Seton Hall students along with five chaperones ven­tured to El Salvador during Spring Break for the 10th annual service trip with the Division of Volunteer Efforts.

Among those on the trip were DOVE Director Michelle Peterson and the Rev. Joe Chapel, who has gone on the first trip and every one since then. The idea for the trip came in 2004 when Peterson was beginning her career as the DOVE director. A classmate of hers, now the Rev. Mino Chica, was from El Salvador and together they made the immersion trip happen.

“My own life had been pro­foundly changed by service expe­riences, both locally and interna­tionally, and I wanted our Seton Hall students to have the same op­portunities,” Peterson said.

Peterson said that DOVE has traveled at least once, if not two or three times a year, to El Salva­dor for the past 10 years. The trips take place during long academic breaks.

Every year the students are giv­en different things to do with the people of the community, primar­ily in two different orphanages and a nursing home.

“We work in an orphanage, a home for girls who have been sex­ually abused, a transitional facility for neglected children, and a nurs­ing home,” Peterson said. “Our students do whatever is asked of them, from coloring with chil­dren, to teaching English, to hold­ing hands, to providing educa­tional or motivational workshops. The trip is rooted in Seton Hall’s Catholic faith. We pray, reflect, and celebrate Mass daily.”

Not only do the students re­member all of the orphans they see every year, the orphans re­member them and are happy to have them back each time, Peter­son said. The trip to El Salvador, as many of the trips that DOVE of­fers to Seton Hallstudents, comes with an immeasurable upside and can even be a life changing expe­rience to any that take part in it, Peterson said.

“The change within the hearts of our Seton Hall students is in­describable,” Peterson said. “They experience love despite suffering, and often heal from their own suf­fering. Many of our students have changed majors and career direc­tions because of their new under­standing of the meaning of their lives.”

Junior Erica Garcia was one of the students who went on the trip this year and said that the people of El Salvador changed her life.

“I definitely think we made a difference,” Garcia said. “For the kids, we showed them how to be loved and that people do care about them. For the elderly, they were shown that they were still cared for and that they are special. As a whole, listening to their sto­ries meant the world to them and showing our appreciation for their stories meant even more. Hands down, my life has been changed by the people I met in El Salvador.”

Garcia said that what she did for the children and elders in El Salvador was trying but overall worth it to make a difference to them.

“The work wasn’t particularly difficult physically as it was men­tally and emotionally,” Garcia said. “You see so many things that are not common in our society and have to realize it is the norm. It’s also difficult to see how horrible someone can treat a child and yet they are still so happy, loving and caring.”

DOVE offers many other trips aside from just the annual El Sal­vador trip, including three week­end trips each year to Philadel­phia, as well as two trips a year to Haiti that are about the same as the El Salvador trip.

“If there are students consider­ing the trip, I 100 percent recom­mend it,” Garcia said. “It’s hon­estly the best experience I have ever been through. It opened my eyes and made me appreciate ev­ery single thing I have in my life. I would definitely go on a trip like this again.”

Eric Hostettler can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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