Boston College's tradition of volunteer work with economically and socially disadvantaged people will add a new dimension in March, when the Alumni Association and the Ignacio Volunteers Program sponsor the University's first international alumni service project in Kingston, Jamaica.
During their stay, alumni will prepare meals, tend to the elderly, provide tutoring, entertainment and physical labor, and assist local residents in a variety of other capacities. The group will live together in a retreat house in Kingston and come together each day for prayer and reflection. About 15 people are expected to make the trip.
"This is a great opportunity for alumni to share their lives with those who have less, continuing the Jesuit tradition Boston College has instilled in all of us," said Ignacio Volunteers Program Director Theodore Dziak, SJ, who is also director of the Boston College Neighborhood Center.
While the Alumni Association administers several local volunteer programs, this is the first extended immersion program it has offered in another country, said Alumni Association Assistant Director of Communications Maura King Scully, and it could lead to other, more extensive volunteer opportunities for alumni.
The alumni service project will coincide with the Jamaica Experience Program for undergraduates, which is held over spring break, and the two groups are expected to meet and share their thoughts on the experience.
Alumni participants, who will be responsible for travel and minimal lodging costs, can choose among three main sites to perform their duties, said Fr. Dziak, who will accompany the group. One site is a home for the destitute and dying run by Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity. Volunteers may also choose to work at a one-room elementary school - which is attended by as many as 60 children - or at St. Margaret's Community Center, which houses a health clinic, a school for pregnant teenagers, a nursery, woodworking shop, sewing room and a soup kitchen for the elderly.
Prior to the trip, participants will attend a weekend retreat, at which undergraduates who have gone to Jamaica will talk about their experiences and Fr. Dziak will show slides of the area and its residents.
Scully said alumni response thus far has been positive, with graduates from the 1950s, '60s and '70s expressing interest. Although program organizers expect a small turnout this year, she said, they hope it will continue to draw support "once the word gets out."
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