International Immersions is a program sponsored by the Office of the Chaplain/Campus Ministry at Providence College. Each year at the end of May, Providence College students and staff members travel to different countries to volunteer and experience new cultures firsthand. Participants gain a vivid appreciation of their relationship to others – especially those who are underprivileged and suffering in today’s increasingly interconnected world.
Each immersion includes weekly meetings during the second half of Spring Semester. These meetings are an important time for immersion participants to get to know each other, learn more about the purpose of their trip, and cover logistical details. After each immersion, participants return to Providence College for a retreat facilitated by Campus Ministry staff and student leaders. Group discussion and prayerful reflection are central throughout each immersion experience. Current freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are invited to apply for International Immersions. The program seeks students with a diversity of backgrounds and welcomes applications from individuals of all religions.
Guatemala immersion participants will volunteer with the Friends of San Lucas organization – a non-profit organization that works with San Lucas Mission in San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala. San Lucas Tolimán is an indigenous Maya village on the shores of the beautiful Lake Atitlan in central Guatemala. Perhaps one of the most well-known missions in Guatemala, San Lucas Mission’s long-term devotion has been the enhancement and enrichment of the whole person – spiritually, intellectually, and physically – by addressing both the immediate effects of poverty and its underlying causes. San Lucas Mission attempts to respond, as Jesus did, to the needs of the people. Its work is done in close collaboration with the San Lucas Tolimán community, as the community itself defines both the needs it wants addressed and the shape and scope of the work to be done to meet those needs. The Mission programs are grounded in the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, attending to the integral human development of the community by addressing their needs for housing, healthcare, nutrition, education, and land.
The Friends of San Lucas organization coordinates volunteer groups that come to the San Lucas community on a short-term basis with Universities, Colleges, and other institutions. The primary objective, motivation, purpose, and reason for coming is to learn. The organization is dedicated to learning from, respecting, growing in solidarity with, and lending gracious support to the people of San Lucas and the Mission’s project of sustainable, integral human development. As is the case with the Mission’s community development efforts, the immersion experience will affect sustainable change in the visitors that influences the way in which they carry themselves and choose to live their lives after leaving San Lucas. Short-term volunteers, after receiving an orientation and a tour of the projects, usually participate in projects associated with construction, gardening, coffee processing & picking, and other ongoing projects. Much of the work is physically tiring, but, depending on the time of year and specific need, less demanding work is also available. Groups will be assigned to worksites according to requests and instructions will be given by local project leaders. Ten students and two PC staff participate in the Guatemala Immersion each year.
Participants on the Jamaica Immersion volunteer with Mustard Seed Communities (MSC) in Kingston. MSC aims to uplift the most vulnerable members of society. Mustard Seed was founded in 1978 to serve communities in and around Kingston, and the organization currently serves populations in Jamaica, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Zimbabwe.MSC operates several homes for the severely disabled, children with HIV/AIDS, and pregnant teens in Jamaica. Immersion participants have the opportunity to travel to these different homes to serve, learn more about MSC, and build relationships. The group stays at Jacob’s Ladder, which is located in Moneague on 100 acres of donated land. The vision for Jacob’s Ladder is to provide 400 young adults with mental and physical disabilities with a home where they can live out their lives. Upon completion, this apostolate will have 100 cottages for staff and residents. At present, there are over 90 residents living at Jacob’s Ladder and new cottage construction is ongoing. MSC is taking full advantage of the expansive property at Jacob’s Ladder to develop it as a hub for its sustainable agriculture program. Participants will also travel to other Mustard Seed Communities Apostolates in the Kingston area. Eleven students and two PC staff participate in the Jamaica Immersion each year.
Applications for International Immersions are available at the beginning of Spring Semester. Completed application packets, along with a $50 deposit, are due in the Campus Ministry Center shortly thereafter. Participants are selected and notified by Spring Break.
Due to generous outside funding, the trip cost for International Immersions is only $500 for each participant. The $500 cost covers transportation (ground and air), housing, and food for the immersion. Students will also fundraise as a group in order to supplement student fees. Please note, however, that the $500 trip cost does NOT cover any expenses for participants related to passport applications or vaccinations.