Mercer student Reggie Poplus, center, with students from the Fundacion Salvacion Children's Orphanage in Huehuetenango, Guatemala.
HUEHUETENANGO, Guatemala — Nine students from Mercer’s three Regional Academic Centers recently returned from a three-week trip to Guatemala through Mercer On Mission, the University’s summer program blending service-learning and study abroad. The students traveled to mountain villages and to other orphanages to distribute used clothing, allowing students to apply what they learned about everyday life within the context of their comparative study of the Americas.
All of the students are studying in the College of Continuing and Professional Studies, including majors in human services, criminal justice/public safety and liberal studies. Two members of the College’s faculty led the group: Dr. Tim Craker, associate professor of comparative literature and philosophy, and Dr. Fred Bongiovanni, professor of sociology and religious studies.
“Drawing on their varied life experiences, these working adult students did an excellent job of connecting with children in real and meaningful ways,” Dr. Craker said. “Guatemala City is closer to Atlanta than San Francisco and experiencing that can make a simple, but profound, change in the way we imagine ourselves with others.”
Through Buckner Orphan Care International, the students worked with children in orphanages and homes and gained further insight into the courses they took as part of the trip: The Study of Everyday Life in Guatemala and Principles and Practices of New World Studies. The trip marks Mercer On Mission’s second visit to Guatemala, and it is also the second time Mercer has worked with Buckner in Guatemala.
“Even eating pizza with the children at the nearby Mayan ruins of Zacaleu – in addition to being a postmodern experience – helped students get to know about the everyday lives of the children, both inside and outside of the orphanage,” said Dr. Bongiovanni.
The experience was a lasting one for the students. “Their faces will stay in my heart forever,” said Reggie Poplus, a retired police officer and student. “I will continue to communicate with and encourage the boys I got to know there as they get older.”
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