Donald Maldari, S.J. (back row right) with some of the students who traveled to Dominica earlier this year.
This May, 16 students from Le Moyne’s Leadership, Education, Action and Decision (LEAD) learning community traveled to the Commonwealth of Dominica, volunteering and absorbing the culture of the Caribbean island nation of 69,000 people.
The students broke into two groups, one staying in the capital, Roseau, the other in Portsmouth, along the northwest coast. For 10 days, they worked in schools, a homeless shelter and homes for the aged indigent, as well as at a women’s center and with the handicapped. Another key component of their experience was time spent in theological reflection, said Donald Maldari, S.J., associate professor of theology in the religious studies department, who led the trip along with Joe Marina, S.J., former associate provost and current Le Moyne trustee, and Vera Locascio, assistant director of the Sanzone Center for Catholic Studies and Theological Reflection during the 2008-09 academic year.
“I wanted the students to reflect thoughtfully on their experience, and that reflection involved consideration of cosmology and the nature of the world and the role they play in making it a better place,” Father Maldari said. “It was also important for them to receive and learn and listen during the trip.”
Dominica is a lush and agrarian place but, with little industry outside of farming, many of its young people seek opportunities available in other parts of the world, and its population has been steadily declining due to emigration, Father Maldari said.
This is the sixth time Le Moyne students have traveled together to Dominica since 2002. It has evolved from a service opportunity into a service-learning project, for which students may earn academic credit.
Throughout the trip, the students are encouraged to stretch themselves, and to open themselves to new ideas and experiences.
“It broadens their horizons and it sensitizes them to the reality of other cultures,” Father Maldari said. “It prompts them to seek answers to new questions that suddenly seem relevant.”