The large photo above the headline shows students working at Simply Smiles in South Dakota on a service trip in May, with staff leader Kendra Smith at right in the blue coat; directly above, from the Guatemala service trip, Jennifer Uribe '19 Abigail Adams '19 Victoria Castillo '21 offer some kitchen help as part of their work. Other photos below are from the trips being described in those sections: Kids playing on swings with St. Mike's volunteers in South Dakota, the Guatemala group together; and, scenes at the Edmundite Center for Hope (Missions CEO Chad McEachern '91 serves food, and outside shot of Center in file photos).
“The community at Simply Smiles and among the people of La Plant will forever hold a special place in my heart,” said Morgan Zifchak ’20, student leader of the May 2019 MOVE service trip to South Dakota, about her week spent working with inhabitants of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
While Zifchak was previously unaware of contemporary issues affecting Native populations, she left the trip anything but: “After this week, I returned home as an ally and advocate for this community,” she said.
“Simply Smiles creates an oasis where [kids] can step away from the difficult reality they face on a daily basis living on the reservation,” said Kendra Smith, staff leader of the trip. She said that working with the Simply Smiles staff, Saint Michael’s student and staff participants provided a week-long, fun-filled, and educational summer camp to children on the reservation.
Outreach, engagement, and transformation were at the heart three such Saint Michael’s service trips this May: In addition to South Dakota, the Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts (MOVE) office, a branch of Saint Michael’s Edmundite Campus Ministry, sent groups of community members to both Guatemala and Selma, Alabama.
Helping Mayan families in Guatemala
Having spent their spring semester as dedicated fundraisers for Mayan Families, a non-governmental organization working to facilitate development programs in rural Guatemala, participants of the Guatemala service trip were excited to finally provide hands-on outreach. Working closely with the Mayan Families staff, the group built beds and stoves, delivered water filters and served lunch to Mayan elders, and assisted in pre-school classrooms. They also spent time “learning about sustainable permaculture initiatives that are transforming the way food is grown in the area,” said Raichle Farrelly, faculty leader of the trip.
Prior to the trip, the Saint Michael's team met regularly to brush up on their Spanish, learn about Mayan communities, and study Guatemalan culture, and all that preparation seemed to pay off, “Local guides, Mayan Families staff, and community members were both surprised and pleased that all communication could take place exclusively in Spanish,” said Farrelly. With five out of the six student participants being members of the Class of 2019, the Guatemala trip was the perfect Saint Michael's send-off, trip members agreed.
Work and Faith in Selma
Having strong historical links to the Saint Michael’s community, the Edmundite Missions at the Center of Hope in Selma, AL, welcomed the group of students and faculty on the Selma service trip with open arms. Located in a predominately African-American, impoverished area of town, the organization works to provide food, clothes, shelter, healthcare, and education to those they serve.
Kalli Opsal, student leader of the trip, said the group spent most their time preparing and serving meals as well as cleaning the kitchen. Opsal was particularly “amazed by how much incredible work the Edmundite Missions was doing with a fairly small staff,” as well as by “the amount of faith the community had.”
Another thought-provoking part of the trip, Opsal said, was the day spent visiting memorials and museums in Montgomery, Alabama’s state capital with a deep history relating to the fight for civil rights: “The National Memorial for Peace and Justice were incredibly powerful and informative for myself and all members of the group,” Opsal said, adding that “the Legacy Museum sparked great discussion and reflection.”