Every spring, while students leave college campuses across the country destined for Cancun, Miami Beach or Cabo San Lucas, many Stonehill students are heading in another direction.
They’re bound for a childcare center in the Bronx, a soup kitchen in Appalachia, a disaster relief site on the Gulf Coast, or a small village in Nicaragua or Honduras. They’ve decided to use their break from study to make a difference in impoverished or disaster-stricken areas.
Because learning is enhanced when it takes place in the context of a compelling situation, alternative spring break programs – we call them H.O.P.E. trips – are a big part of Stonehill’s annual service outreach efforts.
Not Just a Weeklong Trip
Students who participate in the H.O.P.E. program form community with one another during the five months leading up to their trip. They learn about the culture, history and issues of social injustice in the communities they are destined to visit and serve.
The trips themselves are truly immersive experiences, challenging students to engage the four tenets of H.O.P.E.:
- Honoring our neighbor
- Organizing for justice
- Practicing peace
- Encountering God
Upon their return, students are encouraged to reflect on their experiences and to integrate the pursuit of social justice into their day-to-day lives.
Inspired by the Enduring Values of a Holy Cross Education
H.O.P.E. endeavors to challenge the Stonehill community to grow in love of God and neighbor by embodying the Congregation of Holy Cross’s commitment to a preferential option for the poor.
As a program housed and operated through the Campus Ministry office, H.O.P.E. is grounded in the principles of Catholic social teaching. Rooted in that tradition, H.O.P.E. informs the moral, spiritual and social competencies of students, giving them the opportunity “to bring these competencies to bear on matters of social justice.”
Through direct experience of the often unjust social reality in domestic and international sites, H.O.P.E. seeks to carry out Fr. Basil Moreau’s educational philosophy that “forms people into agents of justice and engages the whole person – mind and heart.”
Justice and Social Change
By providing direct service on-site, students are exposed to various methods of social change, such as:
- community development
- sustainable agriculture
- political advocacy
Living and serving in a community affected by social injustice, students are challenged in their current worldviews about the political and social reality of their host community.
Through these experiences, students learn that direct service does not always result in direct change, and that the impact of their service may not be felt during the week spent in the host community. Students often discover that the work they do with their hearts –empathizing with those affected by social injustice – is more important than any work done with their hands.
Encountering different cultures fosters the value of diversity. In encountering persons of different cultures, H.O.P.E. participants:
- Recognize the inherent value and dignity of each person
- Acknowledge and appreciate differences between communities
- Gain an increased awareness of societies, cultures, worldviews and political beliefs
- Develop relationships with people of diverse backgrounds and recognize the ways in which these relationships enrich our lives
By engaging in communal service and reflection, students are better able to identify their core spiritual beliefs, and will find a support system in which those beliefs may be developed, challenged and nurtured.
Through regular communal reflection, students recognize the value and importance of ongoing reflection in appropriating service experiences into their everyday lives. Students are exposed to Catholic Social Teaching and liberation theology as ‘systems’ that attempt to foster a faith that engages the world and seeks to transform unjust situations.
Personal Growth & Emotional Development
H.O.P.E. participants explore the ways in which service and justice activities can aid an individual in recognizing and developing their own gifts to continue work for “…the creation of a more just and compassionate world.”
Students engage in continuous reflection on the ways in which the injustices they have seen move them to further service and advocacy on behalf of those marginalized in society. Through reflection on their collective experience, students often awaken a desire to commit themselves to the betterment of our society and world.
Have H.O.P.E. – Will Travel
H.O.P.E. students have served in a variety of locations around the world. Among them:
- Bronx, NY
- Camden, NJ
- Wetzel County, WV
- Cosby, TN
- New Orleans, LA
- Phoenix, AZ
- Coachella, CA
- La Romana, Dominican Republic
- Guaimaca, Honduras
- San Salvador, El Salvador
- Chacraseca, Nicaragua
- Canto Grande, Peru