In the month of March, secondary four students at Loyola participated in immersion activities in the Dominican Republic, Belize, as well as within Montreal communities. Around 110-115 students partake in the Dominican and Belize Experience every year, whereas around 25-30 students select the Montreal Experience. In the sharing of themselves during this brief, meaningful encounter, students are given the opportunity to truly be men for and with others, so that our awareness and solidarity can grow.
Anthony Marcucci, a reporter with The Loyola News, the student-run newspaper, interviewed Mr. Brian Traynor who runs the Dominican and Belize trips in their April issue. Here is an excerpt from the article:
So what can students travelling to the Dominican expect? “Aside from living with low-income families, we have daily outings in which we try to expose the kids to different economic realities,” replied Mr. Traynor. “Each day the students are shown different aspects of poverty they've never seen before. Often they will go to impoverished schools to see how they differ from our own. Other locations include organizations, sweatshops and plantations. Sometimes guests from the community will make an appearance to share their story as well. We really want to expose the kids to these people who are profoundly different economically from us, yet we feel a connection with them nonetheless.”
If students do not wish to attend the Dominican Experience, they can spend the week in Belize. The Belize Experience is quite similar to that of the Dominican, in that students spend a week with a family who houses them and feeds them. However, it is less extreme as there are slightly better living conditions. Students who do not want to leave the country are able to do the Montreal Experience. This experience consists of several hours per day helping at Montreal-based residences, such as the Nazareth House, Benedict Labre House, L’Arche Montreal, Open Door and the Montclair Residence.
Experience Week is a real eye-opener for students. They are exposed to different realities, no matter their desired destination. Not only is it a great learning experience for students, but it also aims to convey an important message to them. In the words of Mr. Traynor, “We are all part of the same family no matter where you are from in the world. We all have differences, but we can't let that trump our commonalities.”
For the Montreal Experience, the goal is to create awareness of those with whom we do not often get the chance to spend time, but with whom we share this city. By helping out where needed and most importantly interacting with the elderly, the physically or intellectually-challenged, and the less-fortunate around the city, the hope is that students gain an appreciation of who they are, and what they face each day.
During the week of March 20th, secondary four students volunteered for the week at either Benedict Labre House, St. Michael's Mission, Open Door Day Centre, Nazareth House, Manoir Beaconsfield, MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, Mackay Satellite School at Westmount High School, Philip E. Layton School, Mackay Centre School, or l'Arche.
Some feedback from the volunteer coordinators:
Everything is going spectacular! The students are very keen, polite, respectful and very very helpful. We have a full week lined up with many different professionals who will enlighten them on different aspects of visual impairment through informal trainings. These 4 students have already made a big impact on the day center, and on the clients! Thank you for sending us such wonderful, brilliant, respectful young men, we are ALL benefiting from their visit this week!
Donna Suess– Special care Counsellor – MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Center – Day Center
Well again we have a great group of young adults this year, and these guys are keepers! Cheery, hardworking and I think enjoying the experience. Whatever your teachers are doing, it is wonderful! We have a bright future with students such as Loyola puts out. Congrats to you and fellow teachers and principal for teaching life lessons as we all sadly know homelessness will not go away, so we must be better prepared to deal with it. Keep well and keep up the good work! Congrats on another fantastic group of young men! Keep in touch and we certainly hope to be part of the program again next year!
Susan – staff - St. Michael’s Mission
It was interesting to meet this group of young men and nice to see them relax after 4 days in house! They were hard workers, and as usual, very polite; always a pleasure! Thank you for including the Nazareth Community in this initiative- the boys shared short reflections with me which is always an important take away.
Sheila Woodhouse – Director – Nazareth House and Anne’s House
The boys were always ready and willing to help in any way that they could. They never hesitated to ask in case they required further instructions of some sort. From day one, they were quick to understand the needs of the residents. They were also considerate to the plight some of the residents have in terms of their cognitive impairments. They would often go to a resident in distress and try to allay their concerns. The boys cooperated well with each other. They had a great rapport with the staff as well. The staff couldn’t help but comment on how much the boys helped. The residents, staff and families of Manoir Beaconsfield are truly impressed with the boys. We are truly happy to have had the opportunity to have them come and assist in the daily activities of the residents. Thank you very much for sending the boys to us!
Donna Nicdao– Volunteer Coordinator – Manoir Beaconsfield
We thoroughly enjoyed our Loyola Boys. They were always polite, helpful and courteous, and on time every day. It generally takes the Loyola Boys a couple of days to get over their shyness. When they realize that our students are teenagers with the same musical interests etc. they seem to relax and (I hope) enjoy themselves. Thank you from the Mackay Satellite Class. Always a pleasure to have Loyola Students in our classroom!
Rose Sondola – teacher in charge – Mackay Center School –Westmount High Satellite
We had a great experience having the boys here! The whole group did a great job! Everyone was so open to the people with developmental disabilities, and they gave their best during the experience. I could see positive interactions between them and the other members and employees. The students worked so hard cleaning, recycling and organizing the community center. We are so glad to have shared the week with the boys and we are looking forward to seeing them again.
Fabricio Bravo– Volunteer Coordinator – L’Arche Montreal
For more on Experience Week, please click here.