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Moving the World in a Purposeful Way

1/27/2016
New Rochelle, NY (January 27, 2016) “Moving the World” at Iona College is more than a tagline, it’s a way of life. Whether through academics, internships, volunteering or mentoring others, Iona Gaels are always on the move in a purposeful way.

This past winter break, January 4-16, 54 students, three administrators, and two faculty members participated in Iona in Mission immersion trips through the Office of Mission and Ministry. Impacting lives in West Virginia, New Orleans, India, Ireland, and Peru, these adventurous Gaels shared their most valuable resources – their time and talent – to help build homes, work with underprivileged children and explore environmental justice issues on a national and international scope.

The following are reflections from students and faculty about their shared experiences.

New Orleans - Immersion, January, 2016

The New Orleans team partnered with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart at the Duchesne House for an immersion that focused on racism, poverty, and environmental justice.  The team met with many community leaders, activists, and cultural figures to learn about these issues while also directly serving with a variety of community organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Club, ARC of Greater New Orleans, and Grow Dat Farms.

Reflections from Professor Nadine Barnett Cosby, clinical faculty, mass communications, faculty advisor, ICTV

“The New Orleans Immersion trip was an experience that will continue to impact me both personally and professionally, in and out of the classroom.  It was a pleasure to learn about and interact with the culture and people of New Orleans, and to help students engage with the core themes of racism, poverty and social justice.  It was particularly insightful to help facilitate the students’ awareness of the pervasiveness of these issues in the United States.  Many of the experiences on the trip were eye-opening and left me both committed to continuing this work at home, as well as very optimistic about when/how our young people will contribute to improving our society and our world.  The experience has also added another element to my understanding of undergraduate students and their concerns, and has positively impacted how I engage with students.”

Reflections from Kori Bennett ’17, student campus minister of East Hall – Boys and Girls Club and Advocacy

“Going back to New Orleans a second time, this time as a student leader, allowed me to better understand what New Orleans means to my life. The New Orleans Mission Trip was a magnifying glass in learning more about the foundation of racism, poverty and environmental degradation. We spent the week exploring and working in different sites such as the Hope House, Boys and Girls Club of New Orleans, The Whitney Plantation, and ARC of Greater New Orleans. Our days were split between workshops, service, and cultural immersion in order to get a full scope of what New Orleans is as a cultural landmark of this country. The team was eager to learn how the themes affect the daily lives of New Orleanians and shape the family-like communities throughout the city. On January 6, the first day of Mardi Gras season, we went to a parade that was a reenactment of the story of Joan of Arc, where we all experienced our first barricade free parade! We left New Orleans with a better sense of hospitality, graciousness and a deeper passion for social justice.

Not only has the culture enabled me to integrate kindness and genuine love for everyone into my daily life, but it also showed me that fighting for social justice first begins with education and awareness for those who do not experience inequality. New Orleans really holds a special place in my life for how it takes in every visitor with generosity, compassion, and a big heart."

Lima, Peru - Immersion, January, 2016

The Peru immersion partnered with the Christian Brothers in the Canto Grande barrio of Lima in ministries of presence through home visits, home construction, and running a day camp for children.  They encountered, and were, Edmundo Rice on the margins of society.

Reflections from Carl B. Procario-Foley, Ph.D., director of the Office of Mission and Ministry

 “I feel so privileged to accompany 13 energetic and committed Iona students to Canto Grande in Lima, Peru where the Edmund Rice Christian brothers live the life of Edmund, committed to walking with the poor, learning from them and exposing them to the liberating power of education through their school, Fe Y Allegria, which enrolls 1500 children.  In our time of building a house, running a summer camp, or shelling abbas beans we developed friendships and partnerships that have expanded our visions and shaped us in new and exciting ways.”

India - Service-Learning Immersion, January, 2016

The India service-learning immersion group partnered with the Christian Brothers in Kolkata for a week of service in a variety of Brothers’ ministries with school children, children with disabilities, children of sex workers, and with the Missionaries of Charity.  The group will continue their learning through an International Studies service-learning course taught by Dr. Tommy Van Cleave.

Reflections from Tommy Van Cleave, Ph.D., director, Service and Experiential Learning and interim co-director, Study Abroad

“At our institution, we’ve adopted the tagline, 'Move the World.' After our service-learning course in India, one of the students suggested we change it to “Move the World, and Let the World Move You!” Being in a place like India, and walking in the footsteps of the Christian Brothers and Mother Teresa, it is hard to come back unchanged. The lenses that we all used to see and understand the world became irreparably altered, making it impossible to see the world the same way ever again.

Our days usually began by waking as 4 a.m. and riding the bus to celebrate Mass with the Missionaries of Charity, a group of sisters founded by Mother Teresa. After mass we would pause at her tomb before being sent to one of the “Mother's houses,” facilities providing care for physically and/or cognitively disabled people along with other volunteers from across the world.

While the sisters provided advanced medical care, as a team we were given tasks such as laundry, preparing food, or putting lotion on dry skin. More than that though, the sisters encouraged us to be emotionally and spiritually present as a way of validating and honoring the dignity of all the residents. In many ways, our service project sought to implement what our Christian Brothers taught us about the meaning of “namaste” on our first day in India.

The Brothers explained that namaste means, 'the divine in me honors the divine in you.' I think for all of us, it was a learning experience to pause, and actually implement this through practical acts of kindness, love, and service. For many reasons, living and doing a service project in a place as different as India is challenging, especially if most of what we know comes from a Western perspective. This difference however, opens our eyes and hearts to beauty and joy in ways that we could never imagine. This is not to say that everything was pretty, in fact, much of it was challenging to see.

Upon returning, many students reflected that they are having a hard time putting into words just what they learned, but they know that something big happened. I think this why all of us are unable to answer the question, 'so how was India?'

On our last night in the country we talked about how to respond to this question, and the group decided that their collective answer would be, 'it was important.' Our group was moved by the world in ways that were humbling, funny, jarring, wonderful, painful, and significant. Together, because we were first 'moved by the world', we can now go and “move the world” as more informed, caring, and humble people. Our work is not over, it has only begun.”

Ireland - Service-Learning Immersion, January, 2016

The Ireland service-learning immersion group partnered with the Marino Institute and the Edmund Rice Network in Dublin and Belfast to explore the criminal justice system and other social justice issues of poverty, drug use, and homelessness.  The group also walked the footsteps of Blessed Edmund Rice by visiting the Heritage sites in Waterford and Callan.  In Belfast the group worked with the Westcourt Centre in their homeless outreach projects and visited with students in the Life Centre Schools.  They will continue their learning with a Criminal Justice course taught by Dr. Josh Klein.

Reflections from Kayla Kosack '17, criminal justice major, political science minor, security threat assessment minor, executive vice president, Student Government Association, captain, Iona College Mock Trial, resident assistance, Eastchester Apartments.

“When we went to Glendalough we were sounded by serenity and peace.  A major thing we took away from there was, "To know who you are, you need to know where you are." At that moment many of us learned that we need to live in the moment and soak in your surroundings.  There was nowhere better to gain that understanding. 

Throughout Ireland we surrounded ourselves in the lifestyle of Edmund Rice.  We understood where we were by being in his home, his schools and with people who understand what it's like to live Edmund's values.  Through understanding that we were there, we were able to understand who we are when we returned to Iona. We are a family, we are leaders and we are all people seeking to serve. Not a single one of us would have been in Ireland at that exact moment with those exact people if it were not for Edmund Rice to bring us together and that is how we were able to learn who we are, because we understood where we are because it's about those that surround you that create the ‘where you are.’”


Nazareth Farm, West Virginia - Service Retreat, January, 2016

Nazareth Farm, West Virginia is a service-retreat week with other college groups who serve alongside neighbors in home repair projects and community living through the Cornerstones of: Community, Service, Simplicity, and Prayer.  Nazareth Farm is our longest immersion partner and many Gaels have gone on to serve on their staff.  It is truly a special place.

Reflections from Kristin Bucchi ’16, resident assistant, Eastchester Apartments, president, ICTV, co-host for ICTV's "Inside Iona", mission trip leader, Nazareth Farm, committee member, Kairos Retreat, staff writer, The Ionian, orientation leader, Edmund Rice Society, student campus minister of East Hall – Boys and Girls Club and Advocacy

“At Nazareth Farm the Iona students learned about the four cornerstones that the farm lives by (community, simplicity, prayer, service). Through these corner stones, the students were able to explore their own spiritual life and relationship with God by engaging in communication with the homeowners. During the week, Iona worked with students from four other colleges at different worksites to do home repairs for the people of Doddridge County in Salem, West Virginia. This year's Nazareth Farm team grew together as a family with one another and in community with the members of the farm. This mission trip opened our eyes by immersing ourselves in service to find who we each are as individuals.”

About the Immersion Trips:
Each group was led by a student leader and a faculty or staff moderator. The immersion trips began by the Christian Brothers in the 1970’s with initial trips in Kentucky, Florida and Peru. To date there are 15 immersion offerings through Iona in Mission for 2015-16. Future trips include Chicago, Habitat for Humanity in Harrisburg, Pa., Washington, D.C., and Nazareth Farm in West Virginia. The summer offerings include Philadelphia, Rochester, Syracuse and Zambia.

For further information on these and other Iona in Mission initiatives, please contact the Office of Mission and Ministry located in Robert V. LaPenta Student Union, Room 217, (914) 637-2772 or email Carl Procario-Foley at cprocario-foley@iona.edu or visit Iona in Mission.

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