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Ronald Porter
Acting Director of Service Learning

Eckerd College
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711

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Service Learning

Service Learning

Puerto Rico: Spring Break 05

One of the 2005 Spring Break Teams didn't go to do service. The Puerto Rico Pilgrimage team went to become part of a serving community. The 12 team members were welcomed into a community of Christians from a number of churches throughout San Juan. While team members did not have to be Christian, we were aware that we would live and work in solidarity with people for whom the Christian faith is a guiding principle. People of the local community - they became our friends - were with us most of the time - eating, working, helping us to discover the beauties of their amazing island. Some of our service was expressly church related, by permission of our group. We handed out flyers about Holy Week services, cleaned and painted in a church in a "humble" neighborhood, attended services and even assisted with a foot washing ritual. Our other work included handing out water and assisting with finishers at a 5K run fundraiser for El Hospital del Ninos. Later in the week we spent time in the hospital - actually the children's home - playing and visiting with them, all of whom were born with severe emotional or physical disabilities and most of whom had been abandoned by their parents. At a retirement home, we cleaned, visited with residents and prepared and ate a meal with them. We served meals to the homeless in a park. All of these service efforts were done with our Puerto Rican friends, who themselves are regular volunteers at these sites.

Our friends were unanimously proud of their island and were delighted to take us to El Junque - the only rain forest on US soil (PR is a US territory) - where we hiked and played in a freezing waterfall; to the bioluminescent bay, where we swam under the stars in glowing water - one of only a handful of such locations in the world; to Old San Juan, the original city of the Island whose still-intact forts, El Morro and San Cristobal, are World Heritage Sites; and to the hot spots for dancing and places with the best Puerto Rican food!

Four days after our return, a St. Pete Times' article reported that Puerto Ricans are the happiest people in the world, according to a new study. The reasons - "emphasis on extended family, an easy warmth among even strangers and a readiness to celebrate anything, anywhere, at any time" - were all things with which we could identify. The great thing was that while we were among these "happiest" people, we were happy, too.

Mona Bagasao
Chaplain/Director of Campus Ministries

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