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 email@example.com.