Aquinas students provided assistance in areas affected by recent hurricanes

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Several students participating in the college’s service learning trips this past fall break provided assistance to areas that have been affected by recent hurricanes.

Approximately 64 total students participated in Aquinas’ annual service-learning trips October 20-28. Those areas included St. Peter Claver Church and School in New Orleans, Louisiana, and El Llano in the Dominican Republic through the Building Bridges of Hope partnership.

The areas of the Dominican Republic and New Orleans where our students serve both fared well overall from the recent hurricanes as the damage could have been much more severe.  However, both of these regions have been and will be impacted by the broader destruction from the consequences of the hurricanes.  Also, some of the needs in the communities stem from hurricanes that occurred years ago, resulting in a significant broader economic impact that spills over into people’s lives in these regions.

Aquinas students have been serving in the Dominican Republic since 2006, when an Aquinas student helped partner what later became Building Bridges of Hope with Aquinas College. Over the course of the week, the students work in the “campos,” various mountain communities in El Llano, a region that hosts the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The communities that surround the city are small and hard to reach. The nearest hospital is often a great distance away for the people and, consequently, adequate health care is nearly impossible. The students on the trip work with a medical team and help provide basic medical care to the entire area. Students help to both setup and tear down the clinic, as well as weigh children, distribute medication, and talk to those in the community.

Along with the medical missions, those on the trip also aid BBOH in various projects.  Based on community assessments, the need for a preschool was determined a few years ago.  Over time, a building was acquired and renovated with the help of Aquinas students.  The preschool in El Chivo now exists and functions to help educate young children in the surrounding area.

In the past, Aquinas participants prepared a facility for the elderly. Participants cleaned out an old building which was transformed by both the Aquinas students and other local groups. Once a dilapidated house, this senior center now provides food, medical care, and community events to the elderly residents of El Llano.

Aquinas students also participate in four other fall break service-learning trips, including Acadia National Park in Maine, Bethlehem Farm in West Virginia, Pine Ridge Reservation and Lakota Solar Enterprises in South Dakota and St. Vincent De Paul Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. Overall, students will be engaged in experiential learning opportunities through service work such as: completing home repairs and cleaning, energy efficiency work, assisting at medical clinics, mentoring/tutoring children in schools, serving at thrift stores, helping at adult care facilities and performing outdoor environmental projects.  Through this commitment to the greater good, Aquinas students live the mission of the college and exemplify the Catholic Dominican identity of Aquinas.  Aquinas College is proud to educate community leaders who serve within a global context.  These service learning experiences are just one way that Aquinas students respond to the needs of our society and make all the difference in the world.