Honors Program ventures near border for social justice, mission opportunity

By Cassidy Fritts

LOGOS PHOTO EDITOR

Seventeen Honors Program students spent part of their fall break doing mission work near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The University of the Incarnate Word group boarded a bus Oct. 17 with Sister Martha Ann Kirk, a religious studies professor, and Jean Loden, director of the Honors Program, to begin their trip to the Rio Grande Valley.

The purpose of the trip was to provide the students the opportunity to learn about the South Texas communities and issues involving the border. Along with the learning opportunity, the trip also gave students the opportunity to volunteer with several different community organizations.

By the end of the trip, the students’ reflections showed nothing but gratefulness for the opportunity they had received to learn more about the South Texas communities and services they were able to provide to the organizations.

The first stop on the group’s adventure was Kenedy Ranch Museum. The students were able to learn about the Kenedy family, the first Mexican cowboys, and the early influence of Mexican culture in the United States.

After stopping at the museum, the group traveled to a small town to volunteer with Proyecto Azteca, an organization that provides residents of colonias the chance to build their own homes. The students helped at the volunteer site by picking up trash, painting the insides of already-built homes, and digging paths for piping.

At the end of that day’s work, the group traveled to Proyecto Azteca headquarters to eat dinner and listen to a presentation about the organization presented by Director Anne Cast.

“Ann Cast extended my education [about the colonias] further and opened my heart to the concern of the situations,” said UIW student Megan Pho.

Other stops included colonias in Hidalgo County, Hope Clinic in McAllen which serves uninsured people and undocumented citizens, San Juan Basilica, a portion of the border fence in Brownsville, and ARISE South Tower in Alamo, Texas.

ARISE and the Equal Voice Network works to help the colonias and surrounding communities by providing citizens with a variety of programs including child development, community development, women leadership, and youth leadership programs.

“It is everyone in the community coming together and using their own individual strengths and putting them together,” said Erica Ciat of the center.

After listening to the presentations, a few of the organization’s representatives showed the group the colonias in the surrounding county. It was here that the group was split in half and each group went to meet two different families of undocumented citizens who live in the colonias. The families shared their stories about how they came to the United States and how ARISE has helped them find a home, raise their children, and live healthy, happy lives.

“Hearing how these people are going through all of this and still making something positive out of it makes me feel joy and hopeful,” said UIW student Sedetta Mejia.

FYI

TheARISE Center has offered the University of the Incarnate Word the chance to bring 10 students to their center in Alamo for a week in June 2014.

They’re hoping the volunteers who come will be able to gain some knowledge about the South Texas communities and colonias. The weeklong trip will not only be a learning opportunity, but a service opportunity as well. The group of volunteers has been asked to create activities for the local youth to provide education and fun during the hot summer. Another bonus is that this trip covers all 45 hours of community service that UIW requires for graduation.

Anyone interested in taking part in this service trip should contact either Jean Loden, Honors Program director, at jloden@uiwtx.edu or Honors Program student Cassidy Fritts at fritts@student.uiwtx.edu.

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