Reflecting on a unique Christian Service trip
Seniors Harrison Grant, Mike Daubney and I dove into the mucky water, worked hard to reconnect pipes, then swam back to shore, with the realization that we just helped restore clean drinking water to 7,000 people in the small town of Torti.
This past year Malvern offered a service trip to Panama for the first time with the help of Villanova University. This service trip was unique. We had to begin preparing for the trip in the months leading up to our departure in June.
During those preceding months, we met with Villanova Professor David Dinehart, Professor Jim O’Brien and some Villanova Civil Engineering students to discuss the water systems in Panama and what we could expect in our trip. In the first meeting with Professor Dinehart, he informed us how we would need to prepare a presentation on the country of Panama, including information on its history and the specific area in which we will be staying, and present it to some Villanova faculty and students. The presentation took much preparation and research. However, this presentation left us all with a strong knowledge of what was to come in June.
Even with all the preparation, nothing could have truly prepared us for what we were getting into. We were aware of the poisonous snakes and all of the other aspects of Panama that we would not be accustomed to. But it still came as a shock on the first night when O’Brien told us not to keep anything on the floor at night, because the scorpions would crawl inside.
The following days would be some of the most enjoyable and challenging days of my summer. Not only did we help construct the foundation of a chapel, but we also were able to socialize with the native people, improve our Spanish skills and help fix the water system that provides water to 7000 people.
Helping to fix the water system was probably my favorite part of the trip. We were able to help so many people – and I realized the locals felt comfortable enough around us to tease us. They screamed “ANACONDA!” while we were in that mucky water. I was scared half to death.
Sadly, as all things do, the week came to an end and we had to leave our new friends.
Next we headed to Panama City where there were fans and – we hoped – air conditioning. (There wasn’t.) During our time in the city, we learned much about the city’s long lasting history and went to see the Panama Canal.
On our second-to-last day I called some of my Panamanian family and friends, whom I met through the Malvern Foreign Exchange program. We met up with them and shared our recent experiences in Torti. My Panamanian family gave us a personal tour around the city and took us to some of the most beautiful places along the Panamanian coast of the Pacific Ocean.
We have all heard someone say at one point that our lives in the United States are exceedingly better than those in other countries. We all know this to be true, but I never really understood the amount of basic things that we use on a daily basis that others to which others do not have access.
Preparation helped us to understand the reasons why we would serve in Panama. Global connections made the experience even more fulfilling.