|Manhattanville Students Dedicate Spring Break to Community Service|
Six Manhattanville College students dedicated their Spring Break to helping out an under-served community in Camden, NJ. Maria Criollo, Barbara Cullen, Karina Edouard, Melat Gebremichael, Edom Tsegaye, and Fatu Yekeh, and Craig Donnelly, the Duchesne Center for Religion and Social Justice Coordinator, travelled to Camden to volunteer for the Romero Center Ministries, an urban retreat and Catholic social justice education center located in East Camden.
"The Romero Center is Camden's best kept secret. I'm honored to have worked with a group of people with such passion, energy, and contagious enthusiasm," said Edouard.
The students attended lectures on poverty, religion, and social justice, in addition to service activities such as providing food for the homeless, working with victims of HIV/AIDS and assisting in building houses at the Romero Center.
"I decided to spend my spring break in Camden because it is my joy seeing other people happy," said Tsegaye. "I believe love is a better compliment than anything in this world. So I went to Camden to spread love-- the simple and free gift I can give."
Camden is one of the poorest cities in the United States and the students felt that by working there, they provided valuable help to the community. They also established personal relationships with the people they met. Seyoum said that the best part of her trip was meeting with an eighty-three-year-old man named Harry while volunteering at a nursing home.
Other students believe that this trip has helped them grow even further in living Manhattanville's mission of becoming ethical and socially-responsible leaders in a global community. They had the opportunity to meet students from other colleges and collaborated with them on community service projects.
"Despite the fact we all go to college in the same country, many of us were there for different reasons, had been exposed to very different things, realities, and cultures, and seemed to have a very different outlooks on religion," Cullen said. "However, despite the fact that at first it was a bit shocking to talk to people who had, to my understanding, very conservative views, I felt I became even more open and accepting as I opened up and heard what they had to say."
The students will be speaking about their experience at a presentation in the Ophir Room in Reid Hall at 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 29. Donnelly hopes that the event will inspire future students to participate in helping the Romero Center.
"Before going to the Romero Center, I have always thought that I have been, or at least tried to be, an open-minded person. However, I haven't realized before that everyone around me tends to be the same," Criollo said. "Being in front of certain people my age, who live under religious rules by personal conviction and decision, opened my eyes to realize that this was my time to apply my idea of being globally aware and open-minded. The most important part of my experience at the Romero Center is that no matter what religion or ideology, we were all born to give service to others."