Students travel to offer community service, learn

Students will serve as close as Philadelphia and as far as Jamaica as part of a new program.

Students will serve as close as Philadelphia and as far as Jamaica as part of a new program.

Just across the Delaware River, Camden, N.J. suffers blight similar to that of Philadelphia. Students will serve the area in a few weeks.

Many students will be noshing on $5 sandwiches from the Student Center’s food court or $7 oversized burritos from Qdoba for lunch during the first weekend of October.

Meanwhile, right across the Delaware River, Temple students will be divided in groups and sent to a Camden, N.J., grocery store armed with $10 each for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This activity and other educational events, intended to show obstacles that nearby impoverished residents experience everyday, will go hand-in-hand with the Student Activities’ Service Immersion Program’s first community service trip of the year.

Student Activities will be running the Service Immersion Program for the first time and will offer students interested in volunteering the opportunity to experience firsthand socioeconomic conditions different from their own.

Associate Director of Student Activities Chris Carey said the trips require participants to discuss and reflect on the community service completed each day.

“A big part of doing service is the reflection piece. We really want this to become a developmental experience,” said Carey, who started volunteering during his high school years in Manhattan.

Each trip has a central theme that illustrates the type of community service participants can expect to do that day. The Camden trip’s theme of poverty will have participants working in areas like housing retaliation, nursing homes and shelters.

Participants will stay at the Saint Joseph Pro-Cathedral’s Romero Center but are not expected to engage in faith-based practices.

In addition to the Camden trip, another weekend trip, this time to Harlem, will focus on homelessness. The trip is scheduled for Presidents Day weekend in February. Participants will serve hot meals and dine with the area’s homeless at local soup kitchens.

Four weeklong ventures, which will involve more intensive preparation, including team meetings and both individual and team fundraising done by participants, are planned as well.

Groups for these trips will only consist of 10 to 20 students. Three groups will travel to Jamaica, the Lakota Native American reservation in South Dakota or Mexico. The fourth will take place in Philadelphia.
The trips will be funded partially by the department and partially through fundraising, Carey said.

“The plan is to implement a full sustainable funding model that will create enough dollars to operate the program completely through fundraising,” he explained in an e-mail.

A Philadelphia trip is scheduled to take place during spring break 2010. The Student Activities is partnering with CampusPhilly to have the trip’s central theme to be education. Though a schedule of activities has yet to be created, Carey said handing out free lunches, reading a book to a class or working with illiterate adults are some services intended for the trip.

Participants will be required to stay at the Apple Hostel on Bank Street in Old City.

Carey said he hopes to show students that there is a Philadelphia outside of Temple’s ‘T’ banners.
“Students can learn about the struggles that people are facing right around them,” he said. “It will develop a knowledge base and sense of social responsibility.”

Junior international business major Abiola Adeola participated in a Philadelphia service project last year through a Christian organization and attended an information session on the Service Immersion Program. She said she hopes to go on one of the trips to Jamaica or Mexico, since both are developing countries like her home country, Nigeria.

During the 2008 service project, Adeola spent a week sleeping in the First Presbyterian Church in Kensington, planning and running afterschool activities like free movie nights for impoverished locals and cleaning up needles and other trash from the streets.

Adeola said the experience helped her see the less fortunate in Philadelphia as people, instead of statistics. Though Adeola grew up in a developing country, she said she was sheltered in her own little “bubble” from those of socioeconomic statusus.

“It is important to look beyond yourself,” Adeola said. “This [opportunity] is right in front of you.”

Carey said he anticipates more applicants than spaces available for the trips. The selection process, though, will not be based on a first-come, first-serve basis or on how much volunteering experience the candidate has.

Student Activities Assistant Program Coordinator Maureen Fisher said Student Activities is looking for a diverse mix of students, from regular do-gooders to those who have never volunteered before but want to give it a try.

“We are interested in people who would like to do service, not just [explore] the destinations,” Fisher said.

Applicants must be Temple students, and each student is only allowed to participate in one weeklong trip. Graduating seniors will be able to participate in the Lakota and Jamaica trip, which are scheduled to take place after the Spring 2009 semester.

The application deadline for an upcoming Harlem trip, scheduled next after the Camden immersion, is Dec. 5. The deadline to apply for the more intensive, weeklong trips is Oct. 30.

There is a $25 non-refundable application fee for each trip. An additional individual fundraising of $100 is required for the weeklong trips, but Student Services will aid participants in accomplishing this monetary goal.

Laura Weber can be reached at

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