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Merrimack students traveling on international immersion trip to Ecuador

May 31, 2016
The school year may be over but that doesn’t mean the lessons are over for Campus Ministry, which is sending a team of 10 to Ecuador on the west coast of South America on an immersion trip to learn about the people, their hopes and concerns.

The Ecuador international service immersion experience is scheduled for June 3-10 in the Mount Sinai neighborhood of Quayaquil, a city of nearly 2.7 million people living near the equator.

The trip is designed to open the eyes of students who have never experienced the kinds of hardships that are common in other countries.

“The way we live in the United States is very abnormal to most of the world,” said campus minister Jeffrey Wallace. “The majority of the world looks a lot more like Ecuador than Andover, North Andover or Merrimack.”

Elise Zajicek, an Augustinian volunteer, is going on the trip as a staff advisor with Danny Rone, a residential director at Monica Hall, and eight students. She also went on the alternative spring break to Camden, N.J.

The Ecuador trip is different than the alternative spring break. During alternative spring break and alternative winter break student volunteers were busy working on projects such as cooking for the underprivileged or building homes so they seldom got to meet the people they were serving.

“In an immersion trip we get to sit down, relax and meet with the people versus being on a demanding schedule,” Zajicek said.

Ecuador will offer students the time to reflect on what they see and hear while visiting different families throughout the week and learning about their lives, Wallace said.

That, in turn, will hopefully lead them to ask questions about social justice issues and the serendipity of life’s circumstances while putting faces to the stories of social issues. Why is there no running water and the need to pirate electricity for some people, why is trash pickup so poor?

For Wallace, the resilience shown by the people of impoverished counties is amazing.

“What we’re trying to show people is poverty does not define a person,” Wallace said. “They are a person before their limitations.”

For many travelers who go on the international immersion trip, it’s their first time out of the United States. When they return they can share their first-hand accounts with schoolmates.

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