Eight Ohio Wesleyan Mission Teams Work at Home and Abroad
For 67 Ohio Wesleyan students and 17 faculty and staff members, spring break was a time for solidarity and service.
They were the latest participants in the mission trip program run by the OWU Chaplain’s Office, and they traveled to a range of usual destinations and a few new ones.
“I think this year’s teams went great,” said Associate Chaplain Chad Johns, who oversees the program.
“We always want to help in a way that maintains or increases human dignity. We talk about this approach as “there is no us and them; there is only all of us together.”
In their effort to provide service, one team barely traveled at all. Junior Alesha Showman and sophomore Nadya Sotnychuk led a team, suggested by Assistant Chaplain Lisa Ho, that worked with organizations in the Delaware community.
Ho and Public Safety Sergeant Chris Mickens were advisers for the team. (Each team has two or sometimes three faculty/staff members who participate.)
“There is a certain ownership of responsibility I noticed with a lot of the team members, as well as an appropriate sense of pride for being a part of the University’s service to the city,” Mickens said.
“The connection from those we served – whether the organization or the people – seemed well-forged and appreciated.”
The Delaware team was one of five that worked in the United States; other teams traveled to Atlanta, New Orleans, the Lakota nation, and the U.S./Mexico border. Three teams went overseas, to Haiti, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
In New Orleans, students took part in rebuilding homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“It’s incredibly frustrating to realize that this is the United States and yet we still can’t handle disaster recovery any better than this,” said Johns, adviser for the trip. “Ten years later and 6,000 families still need homes.”
Johns frequently participates in the program, but this was his first trip to New Orleans.
It was the second trip for senior Liam Dennigan; he led the team this year and was reflection leader last year.
Dennigan and Johns both cited contractor fraud as a major reason why so many houses haven’t been restored; 90 percent of families still waiting to re-enter their homes have been victims of this practice, Johns said.
“Essentially in the family’s most vulnerable hours they were taken advantage of by predators that saw their crises as an opportunity,” Dennigan said.
“The work taken on by students is helping make better a terrible situation. In the same sense it is significant work because it exposes students to a huge injustice that has occurred.”
OWU has sent a team to New Orleans every year since Katrina, and often has a mission team of Greek-affiliated students; this year the two came together.
“Especially in the wake of recent bad press, it was nice to be able to demonstrate that Greek members can contribute positively to our communities through community service and involvement,” Dennigan said.
Greek-affiliated students didn’t just take part in the all-Greek team, either – every team had at least one affiliated student among them.
The team that returned to Haiti was led this year by two members of Kappa Alpha Theta, though it had no official connection to Greek life.
“It’s really hard to explain how I felt leading a team simply because I don’t feel like any words accurately portray how rich and rewarding my time was,” said reflection leader Emma Sparks, a junior.
As reflection leader, Sparks assisted logistics leader Maddie Stuntz in organizing the trip and guided team meetings where they looked back at each day’s work in the evenings.
“I think we got a lot out of reflection, but we could continue to talk about it all for hours,” she said.
In Haiti, the team worked at Pwoje Espwa (Project Hope), an orphanage and school; they offered basic construction work and classroom assistance. OWU has sent several teams there in the past, but it was Sparks’ first time going there – or on a mission trip or even abroad at all.
It definitely left a big impact on her, though.
“OWU students would benefit greatly from volunteering at Espwa,” she said. “I also feel encouraged to return, whether on a mission team or for service after I graduate.”Photos from the Eight Teams
Holistic Healing: Health, Gender and Race in Atlanta, Georgia
Backyard Justice: Delaware, Ohio
Chapters, Houses, and Homes: New Orleans, Louisiana
Building and Rebuilding: Lakota Nation, South DakotaCaption goes here. (Photo courtesy of OWU’s Office of University Chaplain)
When Two Worlds Collide: Dynamics and Challenges of the Arizona/Mexico Border
Love and Hope Ministries: Children at the Core of El Salvador
Project Chacocente: Moving Out of Poverty in Nicaragua
Hope in Haiti: Returning to Pwoje Espwa