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Gene Malloy '05 Reflects on Service Trip

by David Oblas Nov 5, 2018

Gene MalloyIn March 2017, I spent a week in El Crucero, a small community in the mountainsoutside Managua, Nicaragua as an alumni advisor to a group of DeSales students during their spring break. Partnering with the Feed the Children organization we spent time at various sites in the community, but primarily worked at a productive training center and a local school. Our group assisted in various tasks at the training center including gardening, collecting eggs, moving chickens between coops (yes, really) and preparing food in the bakery. At the school, we assisted in teaching basic first-aid lessons, serving food, and building and painting a fence. Each member of our group also had a scheduled visit with a child in the community they had volunteered to sponsor through Feed the Children.

While we assisted in many projects throughout the week, the most impactful part of the experience was the relationships we built with the local community. The philosophy of Feed the Children is to not just provide physical goods and resources, but also to build trusting relationships in the community and create a sustainable foundation that can continue in the future. 

Meeting my sponsored child was an experience that caught me off guard in some ways. At six years old he was a bit shy, but he was quick to warm up and through our translator told me about his favorite subjects in school and what are his favorite games to play. Later in the week when we were continuing to work at the school he found me and wanted to play with the toys he received (which we did!). I knew he was appreciative of the gifts, but I was not expecting him to seek me out. It showed me just how important the relationships we were helping to create are.

The reality of a program like the one we experienced is that abundant outside resources will not always be there to help the community. In addition to providing education and the means for sustainable food production, establishing a culture of strong positive relationships can help the community to thrive in the future. One of the reasons this program works so well is because of the effort and dedication of the advisors and program coordinators at Feed the Children. They provided our students the opportunity to focus on building relationships and set the expectation that while we would be working on projects, our focus should be on engaging with the
community.

I was in awe of how quickly the DeSales students formed strong bonds with the community - particularly the children - through their home visits and at the local schools. Their selflessness and desire to serve showed the character of an amazing group of students. Their willingness to give of themselves during a week when they could be taking a break from their studies and other activities was truly humbling. These eleven students - and my exceptional co-advisor, Bro. Joseph Schodowski - represented DeSales University extraordinarily well, and carried themselves through the week with a spirit of humility and gentleness. From day one, they fully embraced the community with servants' hearts, and I am grateful to have shared this experience with them.