There are so many things that you should do before you graduate college, but I’ve learned one of the most important is to travel.
Over spring break, I traveled to Merida, Mexico on an Alternative Break Service Trip (ABST), and I have to say, it was one of the most eye-opening and educational experiences during my time at Gannon.
Traveling with a group of 12, we stayed at the Mision de Amistad, or the Mission of Friendship, a partnership of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie and the Archdiocese of Yucatan. The Mission runs many programs in Merida, such as the Los Amiguitos daycare center, a medical dispensary, Nueva Vida, which is an afterschool program for girls, and a family sponsorship program.
We were privileged enough to not only visit these locations, but also San Pedro Apostol in the village of Yaxcaba—which is the sister parish of St. Joseph’s Parish in Warren, Pennsylvania—where the Rev. Felix and his parish welcomed us with open arms. Our main purpose in the village was to spend time with the girls at Nueva Vida.
We spent time getting to know the girls at the program, eating lunch together, practicing their English and at the same time practicing our Spanish, too. Our last day was spent giving an English lesson to the girls.
We read the book “Beautiful Hands,” then helped them trace their hands on colored paper and glue them onto a poster with the words “What will your beautiful hands do today?” in both English and Spanish.
Our group’s experience in Mexico was so humbling that we began discussing how we could bring what we’ve learned back to Erie to implement in our own lives.
We did just that at this year’s Celebrate Gannon event by giving a presentation titled “Uno Mas,” which is Spanish for “one more.”
This was Father Felix’s catchphrase while we were in Yaxcaba. On every tour he took us on, Father Felix insisted on taking at least one, if not five group photos. “Uno mas! Uno mas!” he would shout. The phrase stuck with us and we came to understand a deeper meaning of those words.
“There is always one more thing that you can do to become a better person. There is always one more thing that you can do to help others."
We have aspirations to continue to serve in St. Joseph’s Parish and form connections like those we did in Mexico in our own country. Personally, I hope to continue implementing what I learned in Mexico into my everyday life.
I hadn’t really thought much of Mexico previously, but when I did I imagined people living in huts with no electricity or water. There are definitely people who still live like that in rural Mexico, but I never knew my ignorance until this trip. These people are just like us. They ride buses and drive cars just like us. They go to school and have jobs just like us. The little girls at Nueva Vida loved playing schoolyard games with each other, just like American children do.
It was important for me to recognize this. Ignorance is the root of apathy, and this trip opened my eyes to that.
There is always one more thing that you can do to become a better person. There is always one more thing that you can do to help others. There is always “uno mas.”