After a long fall semester, many Manhattan College students use winter break as an opportunity to travel, often to an exotic, tropical locale. That’s exactly what two members of the Jaspers’ women’s lacrosse team did over their winter break. Junior Maddie Regal spent a week in Jamaica, while sophomore Talia Price traveled to Ecuador. They weren’t there for a vacation, however. They were there to give back.
Regal and Price both participated in community service trips through the LOVE Program. Organized and run by Campus Ministry, LOVE stands for Lasallian Outreach Volunteer Experience. LOVE sponsors a number of service trips—both within the U.S. and abroad—throughout the school year. All of them have a common purpose—to help underprivileged people and areas.
“I had always heard about these trips, but had never really thought much of it,” Regal said. “Then I met some of the people that had gone the previous year, and it just sounded like such an amazing experience.
“I kind of stumbled upon it,” Price added. “And I’m really happy I did. I originally wanted to study abroad, but this was a much better way to experience that.”
Several Manhattan students and chaperones went on each trip, with each participant covering the remaining cost after fundraising. Regal and Price were the only student-athletes that took part.
Regal’s group volunteered with the Mustard Seed Organization, which runs several houses throughout Jamaica. They lived among the community, staying in a retreat house on the same complex with no cell phones and very little water. The volunteers worked primarily with residents suffering from cerebral palsy and autism, feeding them breakfast and dinner daily, while also visiting the other houses (which help, among others, pregnant teenagers and children with AIDS) throughout the week.
Price was originally planning on joining her teammate in Jamaica, but she wanted a more immersive experience, so she opted to go to Duran, Ecuador, about 20 miles outside of Guyaquil (Ecuador’s largest city), instead. Her group visited people throughout the community, listening to their stories, and worked with an after-school program. They also spent time at a hospital for people with Hansen’s Disease, which is more commonly known as leprosy.
Naturally, there was some initial culture shock, especially for Regal, who had never been out of the country before.
For Price, who had the additional barrier of not speaking Spanish (although some in her group did), it hit almost immediately. “I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “We landed in a pretty nice airport, then we just kept driving and saw the conditions, and I thought, ‘Wow! This is what we’re going to be living in for a week.’”
Although, any culture shock quickly wore off thanks to the warm reception they received from the residents they were there to help.
“My favorite part was everyone’s smiles,” Regal noted. “They were the happiest people with the most beautiful smiles. It just warmed your heart.”
“There was this one old man at the hospital who kept saying how happy he was to have Americans spend time with him and kept telling us how beautiful we were,” Price remembered.
Both agreed that it’s something they’d love to do again, although they’d each like to go somewhere else and get a different experience. The experience that they had is something they’ll never forget, however.
“It was definitely a learning experience being in a different environment and not really knowing what you’re getting yourself into,” Price said. “It was rewarding to come back to America. I definitely gained more of an appreciation for what we have.”
“The whole time, they said you’re going to be a lot more affected than anyone you help,” Regal said. “And that was definitely true. For me, it was both learning and rewarding.”
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