For the first few days it was just a photo of them waiting at the airport in New York, and another grinning with children at an orphanage.
But five Misericordia University students have putting a new twist on the venerable school tradition of service to the poor in Guyana this week: Posting blog entries, at least when they can get an Internet connection.
“In less than 24 hours, our lives have been changed. We are comprehending the poverty we have encountered, and enjoyed what is a bright spot among the sad sights, our first visit to St John Bosco Orphanage,” the first post from Guyana read.
Catie Becker of Shickshinny, Kayleigh Morein of East Meadow, New York, Megan Lage of Morristown, New Jersey, Ann Kaufman of Williamsport and Arthur Dowell of Berwick left the United States on Sunday and won’t be coming back until June 16.
In between, they’ll be visiting and working in various facilities with abandoned children, impoverished elderly, HIV/AIDS victims and others.
But while the annual service trip to Georgetown, Guyana — a South American coastal nation east of Venezuela — is in its 20th year, the university decided to add a modern twist, with a blog and, technology willing, tweets on the trek.
“I don’t even know what kind of Internet connection we’ll have,” Becker, fresh off graduation, said. “But they are going to try.”
Becker signed up for the trip for three reasons. “I love to travel,” she said, citing a high school trip to Mexico and a more recent excursion to Florence, Italy. “And I love helping people.”
The third reason: “This was my last chance to do a trip with Misericordia. Service is such a big part of this university.”
The students will be working at the Red Cross Convalescent Home for abandoned children up to 5 years old, Missionary Charity Home daycare for children and abandoned elderly, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital where they will help teach a nursing class and work with HIV/AIDS outreach, Mercy Wings Vocational School tutoring students, St. John Bosco Boys Orphanage and School, Palm Nursing Home physical therapy clinic, and Ptomley-Reid Rehabilitation Center for developmentally challenged young people, among other places.
“It will be hard to process some of the stuff,” Becker anticipated of working in a country where 35 percent of the population is below the poverty line, according to The World Fact Book. “I have to really step back and think about what I’m doing there, where I am and what I can do to help.”
As to her own plans, Becker graduated with a degree in history, and when asked what she intends to do for a living, laughed. “That’s a good question, and when I have the answer I’ll pass that along.”
She’s considering going back to school, and suspects she’ll end up either teaching or working for a non-profit.
“I’m very open to where I want to go and what I want to do,” she said, as if volunteering for two weeks in Guyana didn’t prove it.