The fall marks an important time of the year for us at Solidarity in Action, as many people make the important decision to participate in the potentially life changing experience of a Solidarity in Action program. Returning from Woodstock late Thursday evening following a presentation to the parents of high school students that are going on an SIA trip in the 2012 year, I found myself reflecting on what makes the SIA programs special. Perhaps my thoughts were triggered by the presentation to the interested parents or by a visit to the travel agent earlier this week, where we discussed the timetable for the 2012 year. It also may have been triggered by the excited high school students, or by our visit with our partner universities. We can feel the excitement growing as the Solidarity in Action Trip Application begins to approach (applications are due November 4). Emails have been coming in and interest is growing as we approach the deadline.
The excitement led me to reflect on the special aspects of these programs, the impact they have on the participants and the communities; how both lives are changed following the experience. I have been fortunate enough to experience the joy of the SIA programs. In each SIA program the friendship that forms between participants and local community members that always stands outs. The wonderful and kind participants arrive in the community, as complete strangers to the country and the community, and receive a warm welcome as if they friends or family. I know the feeling. I experienced it when I first arrived in Peru six years ago. It was as a result of a trip to Peru with Brock University that led a number of us to create Solidarity in Action. I have also seen firsthand as people impacted by the experience have had their careers shaped by the experience.
There are many different reasons that people choose to travel with SIA. Many do so because they love to volunteer. Some feel that they want to give back to society. There are others whose predominant interest is to learn about the country. All of these components are integral to SIA programs.
An SIA program promotes genuine interaction with the community members and the people in the volunteer placements. The focus is on getting to know the people, and the volunteer placements offered by SIA allows for these experiences to take place. Participants are given the opportunity to teach, work with children with exceptionalities, experience a day working in a health care clinic and they can try their hand at a variety of different construction projects. This coupled with Spanish lessons help people feel more comfortable in their interactions. Additionally, the visits to Machu Picchu (Peru) and Cuenca (Ecuador) provide participants ample opportunity to explore the country and learn about the people.
Many people travel with SIA with high expectations, having heard about the experience from a co-worker, a friend or a family member. Many of the participants return having experienced the amazing experience that they had prepared for. Many people indicate that their SIA experience surpassed their expectations. In most cases it is the genuine love and care that they receive from the communities that will remain with them for the rest of the life. For many people their SIA trip sparks an interest inside them that they will continue to pursue the rest of their lives. There are many people right now who are contemplating this opportunity, who will make the decision to join us in Peru. We look forward to seeing how they will impact the community and how the experience will shape their lives.
If you enjoyed this entry and would like to hear how other people have been impacted by the experience, your wishes will be satisfied. Stay tuned as Solidarity in Action’s newsletter (available in November) will include firsthand accounts from past participants and SIA leaders who have experienced the power of solidarity.
If you would like to see how this experience could impact you, please visit our website, SIA Trips 2012
Thank you for sharing this time with us.
Have a great week.