Problems in surrounding countries resulted in decision to cancel trip for 2017, future uncertain.
One of Malvern’s service trips for rising seniors has just been cancelled due to safety issues in the nearby country of Ukraine, where a skirmish between Ukrainians and pro-Russian rebels has been occuring since 2014.
The reason why Ukraine’s current state is an issue to the service trip to Armenia is because Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, was one of the flight destinations for the trip, according to Mr. Lawrence Legner, Director of Christian Service here at Malvern.
“The three options to fly to were Paris, which the parents didn’t want to do, Moscow, which the parents also didn’t want to do, and Kiev,” Legner said.
At the time of planning this year’s trip, Kiev seemed like the safest option as a destination, but as tensions increased in Ukraine, it became a lot more dangerous for the students on the trip to fly there.
“Safety is always number one on all of our service trips, and we [Mr. Legner, Mr. Algeo, Dr. Fry] decided that it was just too difficult to get to Armenia safely,” Legner said.
There were five students scheduled to travel to Armenia this summer, but since they couldn’t go anymore, the Service Department gave them a few options to choose from for their new destination.
“All of the students ended up choosing the Dominican Republic for their new trip, so it all worked out,” Legner said.
If these students had gone to Armenia, they would have been at a summer camp for two weeks with about 200 Armenian children. There, the Malvern guys would have taught these kids various subjects, such as English, computer classes, arts and crafts, and physical education all morning, followed by fun activities with all of these kids in the afternoon and into the evening.
Legner chaperoned on this particular trip last year, and would have gone again this year had it not been cancelled. He said he loved the trip and the people there.
“The sister who ran the camp was such a great person, and the kids there were so nice and accepting to our guys,” Legner said. “It was definitely hard to email [the sister] to tell her we weren’t coming, but she completely understood.”
Students who have gone on this trip in the past, including senior RJ Napoli, are disappointed to hear about the trip’s cancellation.
“I actually didn’t know about this until now. That’s unfortunate,” Napoli said. “One thing I can say is that part of the whole service trip experience is going to places in bad areas, and sometimes there is some conflict involved, but I can see why [the Service Department] would cancel to keep everyone safe.”
Senior Zach Maher also went on the trip last year, and he is also sad to see the Armenia trip go because he thought it was great, a very beneficial for those who went or were supposed to go.
“I think it’s a shame because it was a great opportunity that the juniors are missing on going on a great trip like Armenia,” Maher said. “When we went last year, we all got a lot of great new perspectives on the world, especially because Armenia is in the Middle East.”
Junior Nate Jones was supposed to go on the trip. He was also upset that it was cancelled; however, it was not much of a surprise to him.
“The Armenia service trip getting cancelled wasn’t really a shock to me because of the situation between Russia and Ukraine. However, it was my first selection, and I really wanted to visit the East – orthodox churches, mountain ranges, cuisine,” Jones said. “I do understand though why it was cancelled, and I feel bad we won’t be able to help the nuns with their orphanage.”
Junior Jake Hodlofski had a similar reactions to his fellow classmates.
“I am upset that the Armenia trip got cancelled; however, Mr. Legner does a great job of making sure safety comes first, so unfortunately this trip had to get cancelled,” Hodlofski said. “I was looking forward to going on a trip that most people don’t go on, but luckily I am now going to DR, and I am looking forward to it.”
It is still unknown if the Armenia trip will be brought back once tensions die down in the surrounding areas. However, students and administrators alike loved the trip, so hopefully the trip will be brought back at some point when everything settles.