From March 11 - 18, a group of ninety-eight Secondary Four students took part in the Dominican Experience. Three young alumni, three parents as well as a number of faculty and staff members, accompanied the students. The group experienced first-hand the challenges faced by the communities they visited. They learned through service, as well as through group activities designed to foster the bridging of two worlds.
Mr. Brian Traynor, organizer of the Dominican Experience, told us that the students have said that there is no way to describe to a person in Montreal what the experience is like: “You have to experience it for yourself”. Much of the feedback he received suggested that while the students thought they knew what to expect, the experience itself was much more powerful and impactful than what they had thought they would encounter.
The group completed some of the largest construction projects to date, including tearing down and rebuilding structures and extending the size of a couple homes. He pointed out that a number of parents were very generous and gave funds, which allowed these projects to be completed.
Reflection is an integral part of Experience Week and some of the most powerful moments were elicited from the contrast intentionally created by the group leaders. For instance, the group will go to a Canadian standard restaurant and order a hamburger just after having come through an area where a family of six cannot afford a half-pound of rice. Mr. Traynor explained that the contrast in wealth, which can be shocking and disturbing at times, can create very profound reflections from the group as they share their experiences at the end of the day.
Overall, there was a great deal of positive feedback from the trip and Mr. Traynor told us that the students are still talking about it. He feels the trip succeeded once again in bringing the students “out of their Canadian mindset and threw them into an environment that forced them to see the world as it is.”
Reflections from a Loyola family, sent to Mr. Traynor and shared here with their permission:
Words alone cannot convey the gratitude to you, and to the Loyola administration and teachers, for offering the Dominican Experience to our family. Both of our boys who attended, as well as myself, have been forever changed in such a positive way, thanks to this experience. It is wonderful to see it grow each year, and to see teachers and alumni returning too. It is a testament to the spirit of, and value gained, from the experience.
Paul came home last week talking about the sense of community among the Dominican people, and I remember well Jonathan and the boys from last year's trip, also talking during their reflections, about the tremendous sense of community among the Dominicans, and I could hear in each of them a desire for that in their own communities here at home. We come home from such a trip tuned into and turned onto a passion, ignited within us. It is an impetus for change; however small or great, in attitudes and actions, that will create positive growth within our own communities at home, school, church, and wherever we may go.
Two memories from my own trip are extreme opposites as far as emotions go: On the one hand, participating in mass up on the mountain, and taking time to reflect there - in all that peace and tranquility. On the other hand riding in a noisy bus with excited boys in the middle of the cane fields, delivering food to the workers there, and receiving the news of the favourable Supreme Court decision on Loyola's petition to teach the curriculum from a Catholic perspective. It was serendipitous; there we were in the DR, doing what the boys have been taught for the past 4 years- seeing it in action, and to have that work validated IN THE MOMENT with the Court's decision was beyond words. I will never forget that moment for as long as I live.
Our family has been truly blessed to have had our three boys attended the school and are thankful for the experiences the Dominican Experience has brought to us.
Many wishes to you and your family for a blessed Easter season,
Kelly and Eric Brissette