Every year, rising Malvern Prep seniors embark on journeys around the world in which they travel to different locations to give back and to serve those in need. The Christian Service trips are intended to be impactful, and for many rising seniors they are even life-changing.
For Malvernians, these trips and what they intend to stand for embody the attitude and spirit of Christ: giving endlessly without expected reward. And yet, the Editorial Board of the Blackfriar Chronicle has posed the question: Do students go on these trips for the right reasons?
The concern of the Editorial Board is that self-interest plays a significant role in Malvern’s Christian Service experiences. This self-interest boils down to one point: some trips are considered better than others.
On October 15, juniors selected their service trips. Each student was called up one by one at random and asked where they would like to go to service. Those fortunate enough to be picked early filled up the trips to Dominican Republic, Peru, and Fiji quickly. As selection continued, a distinction between trips that were and were not desirable became clear.
India had two sign-ups from Malvern Prep, and was dropped completely by St. Augustines Prep in New Jersey. Consequently, the trip was cancelled. Costa Rica still has several slots available.
Attempting to deem one service trip more meaningful than another can be controversial. Students may see trips to unfamiliar locations as being more impactful to them than a trip within their own country. One destination may be considered superior to another simply because it makes for a better Facebook picture.
Disappointingly, students have even been caught drinking and smoking on these service trips in the past. The fact that these actions have taken place is telling that not all students are entirely motivated by the desire to help others.
We believe that genuine interest in a different culture is valuable in these overseas trips. The international destinations often deeply impact the lives of students, showing them service on a different level. However, the main intention of these trips has always been – and should be – Christian Service.
This is the reason why we believe the motivation for a service trip should be to serve others, no matter the location. Malvern Men are committed to service of those less fortunate, regardless of how difficult, how unfamiliar, and how uncomfortable the service is. Thus, all trips, assuming service (which is on all of them) is done , should be considered to have equal merit, as all trips are organized and driven with the goal of helping those in need.
Should a choice of service trip location even play into the experience? Having choice in location may display superiority and inferiority of trips. If students are truly motivated by the desire to do good in any surrounding, does a choice in where they go even matter? How do we decide who is more in need of service? Do the Costa Ricans need more than the South Africans? Is the service done on an international scale more important than what is done in our own communities? Although students may have legitimate interests in particular locations, it is possible that some students’ choices in location are nearly entirely motivated by self-interest.
The Editorial Board finds nothing wrong with the Service trips and those who organize them. In fact, we find nothing wrong with the students who go on them. What we do want to change is how students think about these trips and their goals.
The intent of this piece is not to make changes in the running of the service program. Simply put, we want you to analyze how you view these trips. Juniors, what motivated you to pick the trip that you did? How do you plan on living out the Christian ideals that are so central to these trips? Seniors, do you feel that the motivation for your service trip was service-based? How have these trips changed you as men, and changed how you think, now that you have returned?
In our September issue, we called the members of the school community to be better citizens. As we’ve done before, we’d like to issue a challenge. Analyze yourselves, and the way you think. If you have gone on a service trip, or if you are going on one this year, make sure that you are seeking to embody the principles and values that are being conveyed through these trips.
We challenge you, Malvern, to be good citizens and to make the most of your service trips, not by seeking superficial value, but by tending to the deeper meaning of Christian Service. When you do, you will be better men for it.