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Students delve into solidarity

| Sunday, November 23, 2014

Students, faculty and staff gathered in the student center at Saint Mary’s College on Friday to hear volunteer groups talk about solidarity from both local and global perspectives as part of the Justice Fridays lecture series.

Students stated that their definition of solidarity was unclear before their experiences, but many, including sophomore Tere Valencia, said their lives were positively impacted after their service.

“[Solidarity is] a connection with people and not just people we understand but people who we want to understand and find justice with,” she said. “It is finding peace and a movement that unites and creates a reaction within us.”

The first group of students presented their experiences from a fall break Peru pilgrimage that involved travel to Lima, Piura and Matucana, where they visited residents and built a home for a local family.

Senior Sarah Lipinski said she was one of the students who traveled to Peru.

“[I] felt the presence of Christ in every interaction we had,” she said. “A little village [was] trying to do so much for one another.”

Junior Haleigh Ehmsen, who also participated in the pilgrimage, said the experience was faith-based.

“We were the hands and feet of Christ,” she said.

The students described the people of Lima, Piura and Matucana as immensely kind and loving toward one another.

Junior Anne Cahill said language was not a barrier during the pilgrimage and “being human connected us.”

“It was a very humbling experience being in those people’s homes,” Cahill said. “They embraced us as almost a part of their family.”

The second group to present shared local experiences of discovering solidarity from St. Adalbert’s Church and the community center, La Casa de Amistad. As part of the Justice 305 course, Church In the City – which is offered every fall for one credit hour – the students did a home stay during the weekend and experienced life through the perspective of another family, according to the SMC bulletin.

“We have heard about [families in need], but it hasn’t really affected us until we see it in the light,” Valencia said. “And whether it’s with ourselves or with our community, going five minutes away from Saint Mary’s really taught me that you don’t have to necessarily go abroad to get an impact although it is so great to do so.”

Valencia described her experience as both having an emphasis on understanding others and working together to seek understanding.

“Like the group that went to Peru, this group found solidarity to have a focus and purpose of understanding people from all walks of life,” she said.

Sophomore Maria Hernandez also shared her discoveries on working with immigrants.

“[I was] able to meet other people who trust me with their [immigration] stories with a purpose to educate me so I can go forth and be the voice for them.”

“This experience gave me a face to immigration,” Valencia said.

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