Int’l office program grows

When Solidarity in Action (SIA) was first launched at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2008, it was small program with only thirty members.

Already a popular program at several other universities in Ontario, the organization hoped to have similar success at WLU.

SIA’s two-week summer trips to Peru and Ecuador allow students to volunteer in a number of different fields including health and dental campaigns, daycare, education, nutrition and geriatric care.

Moreover, participants are able to be entirely immersed in the culture of the communities in which they are living, giving them a tremendous sense of solidarity with community members.

Laurier International Student Abroad Advisor and SIA trip leader, Jessie McCahill, participated in this year’s trip to Peru. She explained, “We really listened to the community to find out what they wanted and worked with mothers, fathers, and kids.” McCahill and her fellow volunteers, which included several Laurier students and a faculty member from WLU’s School of Business and Economics, were able to assist the community in addressing their needs and were also able to form strong relationships with the people living there through cultural events every evening.

During the second week of the trip, the group was able to explore various areas of Peru, with visits to destinations such as Machu Picchu and Cuzco.

The program’s focus on promoting, not only service, but also social justice in the communities in which its trips visit, has clearly resonated with a number of students at Laurier’s Waterloo and Brantford campuses. In just a few short years, the WLU outpost of SIA has grown to include over 50 students, who have participated in summer trips.

Holly Thornton, a second-year WLU student, was a part of SIA Laurier’s inaugural trip to Ecuador. While working in the city of Guayaquil, she and her group helped to build an enclosed space with seats to host community meetings.

For Thornton, “The best part of the trip was that you could pick what you wanted to do each day.”

In fact, Thornton’s experience was so positive, that she will be participating in another trip in the summer of 2012, this time as a tour leader.

In the coming year, McCahill stated, “I hope that SIA continues to grow and that students continue to take on greater leadership roles.”

With a greater number of trip offerings for the summer of 2012, SIA is looking to attract an even greater number of Laurier students.