Jamaican Summer Service Trip in Jeopardy, But Campus Minister Optimistic

Nick Bumgardner, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

The coronavirus is a disease that has gripped every corner of the world.

No one has experienced the brunt of the virus quite like the marginalized, impoverished communities of the developing world.

Communities that once needed all the help they could get have no legs left to stand on.  

This is true of Riverton Meadows, Jamaica, and the thousands of other communities living in intense poverty, lacking the material resources to escape it.

Dubbed “garbage dump” communities, these cities and villages have become the literal landfills of some of the most influential and powerful businesses on the globe.

Now, more than ever, these people are in need of desperate, life-saving assistance, and it’s assistance that Notre Dame Academy, along with countless other entities, has provided in the past.

With the spread of the coronavirus, however, these important lifelines are in jeopardy.

On July 19, Notre Dame students, under the direction of Campus Minister Daniel Kriegl and the International Samaritan organization, are planning to embark on a week-long trip to Riverton Meadows, Jamaica, one of the many “garbage dump” communities in the world.

While in Jamaica, the focus will be on service, service, and more service…a focus that may be interrupted by the spread of the coronavirus.

The International Samaritan has already canceled all service trips until May 1, but group organizers and Notre Dame Students are trying to keep a positive attitude.

“There are a lot of moving parts to this and it is very complex among other fluid things going on…[International Samaritan has] decided to wait until May 1 to determine what they will do about our trip. I have kept our administration in the loop on what International Samaritan has been doing and saying, so we wait, hope and pray. I am preparing for the worst but hoping for the best,” said Kriegl.

“The purpose of the trip is found in the name of the organization we help—International Samaritan, based on the ‘good Samaritan.’ These people need help and we know it, so in my heart, I know that a school as blessed as NDA, with as many good Chrisitan families as NDA, can do something to help these people who are desperate. Furthermore, the purpose is to expose our students to a level of poverty that does not exist in the United States of America. These people do not have running water or electricity, and they survive off garbage,” he continued.

Close to 4,000 people live in Riverton Meadows, and when in Jamaica, the student group will be tasked with helping local children and building basic housing structures for the village. 

“It is eye opening and a beautiful cultural experience where you build a true community with people who live so far away. This trip is the greatest single thing I have ever brought to Notre Dame Academy. It is a week where myself, chaperones and those students fortunate enough to go actually live out the mission of our school. It is a week that will be life changing and unforgettable,” explained Kriegl.

The students will be bringing love, hope, joy, and fun to a lot of kids. We spend a lot of time with the kids playing soccer, Uno, giving piggy backs, and so much more. We also help build and paint two structures so that single families don’t have to live with extended families. There is some construction and painting but with basic tools…The skill of the workers there are amazing, and they build everything with no power tools,” he said.

The service trip is not just about caring for the youth and families, though.

While in Jamaica, they will also spend extensive time visiting the elderly and those who are homebound, gifting them with care packages of toilet paper, toothbrushes, soap, socks and other health-care necessities.

The “roster” for the group was picked early in the year in order to get ahead of the planning, logistics, payments and meetings that must happen well before the trip takes place.

“Those chosen take a lot of discernment and prayer on my part. However, I ultimately make the final decisions. In the end, it worked out that I offered all juniors who applied a spot to go on the trip. However, that is why I was unable to take any sophomores or seniors that wanted to go back. I think the junior-going-into-senior year is the best time for students to go. I have taken sophomores and seniors in the past, but again, the junior-going-into-senior year is ideal,” 

Each person faces a payment of $2,200, which covers all expenses, including the flight, meals, transportation within the country, lodging, and all other necessary supplies and services.

The “Service Trip Fund” helps to offset the financial burden, making it a trip anyone can feel welcome to apply for.

As the world stays inside and looks from afar, the future of the service trip is still very much in jeopardy, but many, like Kriegl, are staying optimistic.