For Spring Break, SHU Students Head South for Service Projects

News Story: March 1, 2009

Father Mathew Cherian, right, blessed the crowd of students and staff who are heading to service oriented projects over the spring break following a mass in Chapel.

About 80 Sacred Heart University students and advisors are heading south this coming week to engage in “alternative” spring service breaks.  They will participate in Habitat for Humanity projects in Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee and return to a longstanding mission site in El Salvador.

The student volunteers received a formal blessing and the best wishes of the University community on Thursday, March 5, following the noonday Mass. Father Mathew Cherian, University chaplain, prayed on behalf of the delegation to the “Creator of the world, who fed the hungry with bread and word alike, be their inspiration now in the work they will undertake.”

Sophomores Christopher Daly, left, and Sam Dowd, prayed during a special spring break blessing before going to El Salvador for a service project.

Alternative spring breaks are a well established tradition at Sacred Heart University where many hundreds of students and staff members regularly participate in volunteer service in the community, especially inner-city Bridgeport. Lauren Corso, a senior psychology major from Stratford, will be on her fourth trip south, to work on a Habitat “build” in Wilmington, North Carolina. Sacred Heart’s campus chapter has been named one of the five best in the country, and students in Wilmington will spend the week actually building a house from the ground up for a needy family. She makes it clear that they expect to have a great vacation experience and will even manage to get to North Carolina’s famous beaches while they are “in the neighborhood.”

Dr. Matthew Kenney shared his blessings with the crowd.

Ten students and three advisors will return to Tierra Blanca, an impoverished village in El Salvador. Vanessa Potts is an exercise science/pre-physical therapy major from Warwick, Rhode Island, who found last year’s experience so satisfying that she is heading back this year. She noted that fundraisers throughout the year will allow the group to bring $11,000 with them for much-needed projects there. Rather than seeing the present economic situation eroding support for the Salvadoran experience, this amount is nearly double what was available last year. In fact, the number of volunteer delegates for all SHU projects is up about 15 over 2008.

Dr. Matthew R. Kenney, interim director of Campus Ministry, said that these ventures point to what is best about the Sacred Heart experience. He asked the students pointedly: “If not now, when? If not you, who? Those whom you touch during your time away would have no one to help them without you. You are God’s presence, and God’s hands and feet for these people. God bless you!”