The Catholic University of America

March 18, 2015

Students Reflect on a Spring Break of Service

  Costa Rica
  Johnson worked with patients from a long-term service home.

Catholic University students traveled all around the world this month, spending spring break helping others. Student groups visited six different sites, including Jamaica; Costa Rica; Oklahoma City; Atlanta; Tacoma, Wash.; and Charlotte, N.C. Some groups volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, building houses in low-income communities, and others worked with underserved populations. Below, students reflect on their service trip experiences.

Caroline Johnson, senior
Major: Social Work
Hometown: Dallas
Service trip: Mission Costa Rica

What inspired you to participate in a service trip?
I've always wanted to go on a mission trip, but this was the first year that I really felt I needed to go. I knew I wanted to do a year of service after graduation, and a mission trip felt like the perfect opportunity to give it a trial run, and see if I really felt called to do a year of service. Beyond the pragmatic reasons, serving others has always been something that fills me with joy, and the opportunity to do so in a foreign country seemed like a much better way to spend my spring break than lying on the couch at home.

What was your main project while you were there?
While I was in the city of Alajuela, I spent three days working at a hospital/long-term home for people with cognitive and physical impairments called Manos Abiertas. I worked primarily in the physical therapy department assisting Father Eric de la Pena, our faculty leader and a licensed physical therapist, with providing various types of therapies to patients.

What was your favorite part of the trip?
My favorite part of the trip was Thursday when about 15 of the more physically mobile adults from Manos Abiertas (the hospital/long-term home) came to visit us at the convent where we were staying, and we all spent the morning playing outside and enjoying the beautiful weather. Each of the student volunteers paired up with a guest from Manos and we all played or walked around, depending on what our buddies wanted to do. My buddy, Gilberto, and I fluctuated between intense games of soccer and simply lying in the grass enjoying the morning. It was truly one of the most joyful experiences of my life, to be able to share my day with Gilberto, who was one of the most content and peaceful men I have ever met.

Habitat Tacoma  
Habitat for Humanity in Tacoma, Wash.  


James Wronski, junior
Major: Media Studies
Hometown: Meriden, Conn.
Service trip: Habitat for Humanity Tacoma

What inspired you to participate in a service trip?
I wanted to do a service trip this year because of the experiences and lessons I learned last year on a different Habitat trip. I wanted to give back to the experience that I had taken so much from. Serving others feels good too and it sounds so much better than sitting around at my house watching Netflix. Service to others is something that I love, and I couldn't imagine spring break any other way.



What was your main project while you were there?
In Tacoma, we painted a house while we black-wrapped and blue-boarded a house. In other words we put up the exterior insulation on the house.

What was your favorite part of the trip?
My favorite part was watching all of the participants grow from complete strangers to best friends in just one week. Everyone grew so much and had so much fun and that was the best part. Oh and I suppose the Space Needle was pretty cool too! All in all, the entire trip was my favorite part. There is so much to love that it's hard to pick just one moment.


Rachael Salamone, senior
Major: History
Hometown: Buffalo, N.Y.
Service trip: Mission Jamaica

What inspired you to participate in a service trip?
With the mission trip and many other aspects of my life, the decision to apply came from the fact that it just felt right in my heart. A year ago I could not explain why I wanted to apply for the trip beyond the fact that I witnessed the joy, happiness, and love it brought my tour guide three years ago on Odyssey Day. I wanted to know and understand what that experience was like and how it could possibility change me. God was working in the most beautiful way for me while I was in my application process.

Salamone played with children in Jamaica.  

What was your main project while you were there?
Our mission consisted of giving people the gift of our presence, company, talents, and joy. Our main jobs were basic day-to-day activities such as feeding, bathing, shaving, painting nails, talking, comforting, or just visiting the residents of the various homes.

What was your favorite part of the trip?
As a group leader, my favorite part of the trip was being able to witness the transformation of my team. Seeing them at the service sites so nervous in the beginning and by the end radiating the joy, happiness, and beauty the people of Jamaica had taught them was amazing for me to see. I am confident that each member of my team came in as one person and left as someone different. For me, my experience of witnessing the 21 members of my team grow throughout the week and leave changed and touched by the Holy Spirit is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed in my life.








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