Sunday, June 26, 2022

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2017 Waco Poverty Immersion Trip

2017 Waco Poverty Immersion Trip

Comfortable clothes, a warm bed, an air-conditioned home, filling food, and thirst-quenching drinks. All commodities the Jesuit junior group who trekked to Waco for an eye-opening weekend full of sweat, hunger, and discomfort did not have. Earlier this year in March, a group consisting of four faculty, and twelve juniors traveled to Waco, Texas in order to take part in the Waco Poverty Immersion simulation, where generally privileged participants simulated being impoverished for a weekend. Run by a Protestant organization, the simulation was comprised of many eye-opening activities that demonstrated the hardships destitute people around the world experience.

The simulation began on a Friday at 8 in the morning, and ended the following Sunday at 3. Unfortunately, as one of the attendees of this simulation, I was told directly by the organization who ran the event that they would appreciate it if I didn’t disclose any of the specifics of the simulation; “Best not to spoil the foreign experience for others,” in the words of Mission Waco’s Jessica Armstrong. However, I can describe the purpose of the simulation, and what myself as well as the other juniors and staff took away from the experience.

Simply put, if you are looking for easy service credits for your Junior or Senior year, forget about this trip. In the words of Mr. Riemer, the leader of this trip, “You better go into this trip prepared to learn, otherwise you won’t gain a greater appreciation for your position.” The simulation forces a greater understanding of poor people’s lives because, for a weekend, you live it. Leave all preconceived notions of a difficult life in Dallas. Now don’t get the wrong idea, however. As a personal attendee, this trip caused me to gain a much greater appreciation for many things we take for granted. It brought me closer to people I thought were far different from myself, and made me a more empathetic person.

Chase Kengott ‘18, said, “It was crazy. I got back home and the first thing I did was stare at my comfortable bed. I never thought my point of view about life could change so much. I’m going to try to be more helpful to people who need it from now on.”

The conditions weren’t the only extreme part of this trip, but the diversity as well. Being surrounded by the penniless wasn’t an anomaly of any sorts on this trip, it was a given. Constantly being exposed to people less fortunate than ourselves is what brought meaning to Proverbs 14:31, “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”

“This weekend gave me a whole new definition of need,” commented Jack Allen ‘18. “I usually use “need” really loosely, just whenever I want something really. But these poor people we met had actual needs. They showed me the true difference between need and want.”

To sum up the trip, I would say that if you want to learn more about yourself and the reason you’ve been placed on the Earth, go. But if you’re looking for easy service hours, stay. But I’ve never experienced something quite like it, so maybe gain an attitude adjustment and give it a try.