San Felix, Venezuela

 

Dates: Jan 1-22

Group Size: 2 student leaders, 1 staff advisor, 9 participants

Cost: $3000

Travel Clinic: Level 2 visit +immunizations

 

Quick Facts:

  • Spend free time reflecting, playing, and soaking up sun with group members on the rooftop patio of the church you’ll be staying at.
  • Work alongside community members on a variety of projects and take advantage of these perfect opportunities for cultural exchange.
  • Gain education on such issues as healthcare, religion, poverty, and politics from several guest speakers.

 

Host Community

Venezuela is a country rich in natural resources, culture and spirit with a troubled past of conquest and political strife. The country’s population is 96 percent Catholic, disproportionately poor, and concentrated in urban areas. The group will be based out of San Felix, an industrial city at the juncture of the Orinoco and Caroni Rivers in East Central Venezuela. Fr.Greg Schaffer, a Minnesota priest from the diocese of Minneapolis/St. Paul, will serve as the group’s host along with members of the Jesucristo Resucitado parish community,  an archdiocesan Catholic mission of St. Paul that serves the surrounding community.

 

Justice Issues Overview

  • Poverty—San Felix is the sister city to Ciudad Guyana, the two cities are separated from each other by the Orinoco River.  The wealth gap between these cities is stark and affects the daily lives of San Felix residents.  See the disparity between these two cities firsthand and put a face to poverty in South America through interactions with the charismatic residents of San Felix.
  • Foreign Policy and International Relations—Hugo Chavez, current president of Venezuela, has formed a block of states that opposes North America, specifically the United States’ economic interventions in the area.  Chavez maintains that the United States exploits the region and generates wealth in the short term without investing in the long term.
  • Politics and Socialism—There is significant intra-national dispute over the current Chavez administration.  The nation, its communities, and families are split between opposing viewpoints of the policies held by Chavez.  The conflict over such issues can be seen all over the city, illustrated by the graffiti and posters that plaster the walls of the city.  The group will have many opportunities to learn about these conflicting viewpoints from a wide spectrum of sources.
  • Health Care—The group will have a variety of opportunities to engage with the community through service at the mission: maintenance at the Sisters of Charity home for men with AIDS, assisting teams from the local St. Vincent de Paul outreach group, working at a daycare, and working in a soup kitchen.

 

Cultural Opportunities

The group will visit each distinct neighborhood, or barrio, in the parish where participants will have the opportunity to learn about the country’s politics and history, and enjoy several community celebrations with food, song, and dance! The group will travel to the beautiful Gran Sabana (Great Plain) region of Venezuela, which is located inside Venezuela’s biggest national park. Here the group will partner with Aldeas de Paz for a week, and work alongside the organization doing service.  Spanish language ability is not a requirement for this trip, but it is a strong asset when forming relationships.

 

A Sample Week

Monday— Wake up and spend an hour or so watching the city of San Felix wake up from the rooftop patio of the church, then depart for the day’s work project at the soup kitchen sponsored by the parish.  While there, help prepare and deliver meals alongside women of the parish who run the kitchen.  Head back to the parish that afternoon to play with local children before supper.  Eat supper with the group in your apartment and then leave for a welcome party in a neighboring barrio.  Return from the party and spend time in group reflection before going to sleep.

Tuesday— Go to the Sisters of Charity home bright and early to spend the day conversing with residents, helping with maintenance projects, and enjoying the beauty of the Sisters’ garden.  That afternoon, learn more about the conflict over Chavez’s policies from a local policeman and deacon from the neighboring city of Ciudad Guyana.  Watch the sun set from the rooftop and close the evening with group reflection.

Wednesday— Journey into the Venezuelan countryside with a visiting priest from a nearby city.  Spend the day visiting the farms and scenic vistas of the region.  Return to eat supper at the apartment before leaving for a dance at another church in the parish.  Spend time before bed in reflective group journaling.

Thursday— Spend the morning helping care for children at a daycare in one of the barrios and spend the afternoon painting the daycare once the children have gone home.  In the evening, visit with a doctor from the city to learn about the region’s healthcare concerns.  After supper play volleyball in the church courtyard with parish members and then head in for group reflection and free time before bed.

Friday— Finish up the week’s work projects at the daycare, soup kitchen, or Sisters of Charity home before meeting with Fr. Greg, the group’s host at Jesucristo Resucitado, to discuss his work with the mission.  Spend the evening at a community get-together hosted by a member of the parish at their home.

Saturday— Grab this morning’s breakfast at the bakery across the street before going to a local park with a group of teenagers from San Felix.  After spending the day out, return to the apartment for dinner before spending the night making music in the church courtyard with your group from the park.

Sunday— Attend optional Mass and have the rest of the day to visit with locals, play outside in the courtyard, or take time to relax with fellow group members.  That night, meet with Fr. Tom, another host priest at Jesucristo Resucitado, to discuss the human call to service.

 

Food, Lodging, and Travel

The group will be met at the airport in Caracas and brought to the church by a representative of Jesucristo Resucitado, where they will be housed in parish volunteer housing for their time in San Felix, Venezuela.  You will spend part of your time in Venezuela working with Aldeas de Paz organization.  All housing, meals, and local transportation will be provided. **Passport Required**

 

Cost

The trip fee of $3000 includes round-trip airfare, site transportation, work materials for site, transportation, meals lodging , as well as programmed group activities. Students should be prepared for additional expenses not included in the program fee, which include:  spending money (as determined by the group agreement), food en route to site ($30), updated immunizations, passport fees, and optional travel medications.

 

Student Reflections

“The hospitality we received, the relationships we built with the people of San Felix and the rich culture of Venezuela made the experience unlike any other.  I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in the trip, and I am a better person because of it.”

                          - Kristen Lynn, Participant

 

“I felt immense joy in the beautiful faces of children, considerable frustration at the injustice happening before my eyes and a greater sense of purpose returning home from the trip.”      

                        - Jill Englund, Participant