During winter break, Fairfield University students, faculty, and staff will participate in service trips to help families, children with disabilities, and threatened wildlife.
Fairfield University's Campus Ministry has a long tradition of offering students the opportunity to spend time in other countries through international and domestic service trips to learn about the realities, hopes, and struggles of those living in situations of economic, political, or social marginalization.
"The immersion trips respond directly to Pedro Arrupe's desire that a Jesuit education should be based on the service of faith and the promotion of justice. While welcoming a diverse group of students of many or no faiths, our immersion trips challenge students to process their experiences through a spiritual lense," stated Kevin Molloy, campus minister for domestic and international immersions.
In Quito, Ecuador, students will partner with The Working Boys' Center, a family-centered development program geared towards providing education, vocational training, and life skills development for children and their families. While partnering with the Center, students will have the opportunity to engage with a variety of programs and projects, including teaching with year-long volunteers, working in the Center's workshop, dispensary, soup kitchen, and surrounding mission stations, as well as working to build a house for a local family in a community-sponsored program called a "minga."
In Cangrejo, Dominican Republic, students will volunteer at Mustard Seed Communities. Mustard Seed Communities is a non-profit organization that provides residential care to children with disabilities. During the service trip, students will aid in the mission and the day-to-day operations.
In addition to Campus Ministry's service trips, Ashley Byun, PhD, associate professor of biology, will travel with 11 biology students and PROFAUNA to study the negative impact urban and agricultural development has on the environment and wildlife. According to the Brazilian Center for Road Ecology Research (CBEE), an estimated 475 million wild animals are killed every year on Brazilian roads. Students will work with PROFAUNA to analyze road kill occurrences and develop a system to help deter wild animals from the road in a non-invasive manner in critical areas that run through areas of the Atlantic Rainforest that have high levels of vulnerable and endangered animals. PROFAUNA will monitor the effectiveness of these structures through the spring semester. The service learning immersion trip is part of a semester service learning course with the Center for Faith and Public Life.
While volunteering with PROFAUNA, students will also take part in a jungle expedition in the Atlantic Rainforest known as Serra do Mar to document the presence of the endangered southern muriqui, the largest primate in South America, and to initiate conservation efforts to protect the muriqui population in Serra do Mar. “Muriquis are currently subject to a high risk of extinction mainly due to the history of forest destruction and predatory hunting,” stated Dr. Byun. “As such, this region is considered one of the remaining places that populations of muriquis might still occur. Currently, nothing is known about any possible populations of muiriquis in this area. The objective of this project is to conduct research expeditions to document the occurrence of muiriquis based on the ethnozoological knowledge of the residents of traditional communities in Ubatuba, SP.”
On the importance of immersion trips, Molloy states, "It is our hope -- and we have seen it through the now hundreds of Stags who have come back from immersion experiences -- that these transformative relationships reorient our students to focus on building a more just and loving society, where the human family flourishes together as one."