Rising seniors are expected to complete a Christian Service project that usually involves going to international locations to do service for 10-14 days.
This year the service location options are: Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, New Orleans, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, and a new service site in Fiji. India was also an option, but later cancelled due to a lack of sign-ups.
There are two different programs that Malvern uses for the service projects. Peru, South Africa, India, and the Philippines are all organized through the Augustinian community. Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, New Orleans, and Fiji are all run through a company called Rustic Pathways.
According to Director of Christian Service Mr. Larry Legner, students going to the Augustinian sites stay with the Augustinians. “[Augustinians] help plan it in the country. They take care of things for me there.”
Rustic Pathways hosts the remaining service trips.
Rustic Pathways was founded in 1983 doing adventures across the outback of Australia, according to Anna Lugosch-Ecker, Director of Group Travels at Rustic Pathway.
Since then, the company has expanded, now offering a variety of services in 17 countries.
Now, 70% of programs are based on community service, according to Lugosch-Ecker. Rustic Pathways focuses on two things. One focus is on community identified service trips, and the second is immersion.
“When developing a service trip, we spend time and talk with the elders…and work with them to find something they think needs to be done,” said Lugosch-Ecker explaining community identified service trips. Immersion is the other key piece. “We want students to become a part of the community during their time there.”
Rustic Pathways first came to Malvern to promote a gap-year program for students. Malvern’s relationship with Rustic Pathways grew beyond that five years ago when a service trip scheduled for Honduras had to be cancelled due to political unrest.
“The week [the Rustic Pathways representatives] were coming…I had to cancel Honduras… so like that (snaps) here I am trying to find a place,” said Legner.
So it was by luck that Malvern ended up working with Rustic Pathways for service, according to Legner. “Now they are getting into other service programs, beyond just us,” said Legner.
“Malvern is exactly the example of a relationship that we want to build with other schools,” said Lugosch-Ecker.
When asked about the reputation of Malvern students on the service trips, Lugosch-Ecker laughed for a few seconds. “You always get glowing praise from service leaders…It is clear students get in line with the vision of the company,” she said.
Fiji was added as a destination when last year’s trip to Jamaica did not meet Legner’s expectations. “The seniors that went had a lot of down time, they would go down into a place and they would say ‘oh we didn’t know you were coming’… You know you can’t travel all that way, and spend all that money and not do work,” said Legner. “So, I said ‘ok, we are done’…I contacted Rustic Pathways and asked for a couple of places.”
“We talked about cost, destinations, and…finally decided on Fiji,” said Legner. Fiji was the first service location ever offered by Rustic Pathways when they first bridged out into the service trip market.
“Fiji sounds very exotic. Where they are going is not,” said Legner.
Students will be up in the mountains working with a group of people to build a school. “They are going to be living pretty rustically… there is no electric,” said Legner. Students will be living on a farm and helping with farming for part of the trip.
Later students will visit the bay area, but they will not be staying at a resort. They will be staying at a Rustic Pathways building.
According to Legner, there will be other students there doing summer program activities, but Malvern students will be doing service work. “Our guys are going to go out into the community.. teaching English, working at a school, helping to build… They will have a day on the beach, a kind of island hopping thing on a boat.”
Selecting Service Destinations
Legner recognizes that many of the service destinations are vacation hotspots.
“Most of them are resort destinations. We don’t go to the resort destinations. Look at any of the places we go to and there is a third-world component to those countries,” said Legner.
“Dominican Republic we work with slaves…that’s where we go. Costa Rica, you think ‘ah it’s paradise. It is, but not where we go. They go up into the mountains, nowhere near the ocean,” said Legner. “In South Africa, they are going to go on a safari and that is going to be great… but where they are working is third-world. Practically all of them live in huts…about 15-20 feet around. One room, dirt floor…no electric no plumbing.”
“I like to have contact with people. That is number one with Rustic Pathways and with Augustinians; that our guys have to have contact with the local people,” said Legner.
“It is not about stuff…that’s a lesson, and I could tell you about it and you could print it in the newspaper, but they aren’t going to believe it until they go and see it,” said Legner. “I want them to see these people living in these horrible conditions we could never think of, and see that they are happy.”
Legner hopes that students will count the service trips as one of the best experiences of their lives.
“My hope is that they get it. We did nothing to get born into the families that we did. You could have been very easily been born in Chulucanas, Peru and be living on a dollar day, if you had that, but you weren’t and we have a responsibility to help those people,” said Legner.
“We come back to our nice houses…but they dont. They stay, and what I am hoping for is that we are the ones that are changed.”