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My Heart Remains in Guyana

April 12, 2013

By Karen D.

Karen Duke, Guyana trip 2013 photo 2-croppedKaren D. is an undergraduate student at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, PA, a Mercy-sponsored college. She, along with nine other Mount Aloysius students, recently participated in a service trip to Guyana, organized by Sister Nancy Donovan, director of campus ministry. In Guyana, the students volunteered at Sisters of Mercy’s St. Joseph’s Mercy hospital, a local nursing home; and at the Sisters of Mercy’s St. John Bosco orphanage for boys.

To be chosen for the Mount Aloysius College Guyana Service Trip of 2013 was very surreal.  I was unsure of what was expected of us and of what to expect on our adventure. Needless to say, it was a very exciting time for all of us!!!

Our trip to Guyana was an amazing journey.  To be immersed in another culture so different from ours has changed my perspective on life.  We as Americans complain and may become angry if we have to go without something we want.  For many Guyanese, many go without things they need and yet are happy. I found their outlook and attitude in general is very different from ours in the states. The old adage “less is more,” rings true in a case like this.

I found their culture and way of life simple and relaxed.  Americans’ lives tend to be rushed  and complex with work, deadlines, doctors appointments, soccer practice etc.  For many, we push our boundaries almost to the point of insanity and exhaustion. The Guyanese experience life “in the slow lane,” if you will, as compared to us. They take the time to enjoy their day, un-rushed.

I think for many of us the hardest thing was knowing we had to leave. We have created friendships and bonds with some of the residents, especially at the Bosco Boys Orphanage and at The Palms, an old age nursing home.  It was hard leaving everyone behind, knowing the living conditions and their situations.  It was especially difficult for me to leave the boys behind.  I found we gave them a sense of false hope.  We spent time with and loved the kiddos while we were there, then we had to turn around and leave them just like everyone before us.  I hope this repeated coming and leaving of people doesn’t add to any abandonment issues they may already have.

I found it very rewarding to spend time with, teach and help those we visited.  Giving those a sense of hope and letting them know that others care, is the most satisfying feeling in the world.  The vulnerable need a sense of belonging, love and meaning in life.  I hope we gave those feelings that will ultimately last a lifetime.  I hope we inspired those attending school at Mercy Wings to continue on with their education even after they graduate their vocational schooling, I know they inspired me and I found that I enjoyed something that I never thought I would, teaching.

I know I learned a lot from the people of Guyana, more than I ever taught them.  From this trip, I question the path of education I am currently taking.  I received a sense of complete satisfaction and joy by helping the less fortunate.  Because of these feelings I experienced my path of learning will probably take a detour.

I would like to thank the Sisters of Mercy for making this trip possible for students like myself. In addition, I would especially like to thank Sister Nancy Donovan, who without her experience, expertise and Mercy values, this trip wouldn’t have been possible.

I will carry the people of Guyana in my heart especially those small boys, looking for a family to call their own.  I wish everyone the absolute best. I will miss Guyana and the people who call it home.

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