VISION works to effect positive social change in St. Thomas, national, and global communities. We believe this change can happen when there is an opportunity for a relationship between these communities. So, in VISION, we take up the challenge of traveling to sites across the United States, Latin America, and Europe. We are generously taken in as guests by the communities that allow us to work, live, and learn with them. Since VISION began in 1987, we have seen the incredible power of this coming together.
VISION explores this experience through the Six Components: Community, Justice, Service, Simplicity, Reflection, and Cultural Exchange. On trips, students experience the diverse beauty of the world’s cultures, grapple with issues of poverty and injustice, and reflect as a group on issues of faith and life. In the end, our hope is that they take this experience and live it. We bring to these communities our curiosity, energy, willingness to work, and our own unique culture. In this encounter, each of us is made more whole, more able to love, and more aware of the interconnectedness of us all.
We venture forth on these experiences not alone, but as a community - an intentional community. That means that we support, respect, enjoy and enrich each other in this common experience. An African proverb puts it this way: “I am because we are, and we are because I am.” We strive to build positive relationships both within the VISION group and with the people of the host site. We realize that participants are not simply individuals who experience Global Community Building Trips on their own, but that they are people in a group who can support and challenge one another throughout their experience. We provide participants the opportunity to learn about the dynamics of community and community-building.
Service and justice are tightly intertwined – often being called the two feet of social change. While service helps us participate with the site in shared work the Justice component helps us address root causes. Each of the Global Community Building Trip engages one or more justice issues, from education to climate change, to civil rights, to immigration. Our hope is to take steps to find our voice understanding each of our roles in much-needed social change.
Service is a value that is strongly rooted in all faith traditions and can take a variety of forms. You will work alongside residents of the community you visit to address human, social, and environmental needs. It might include repairing houses, helping in a soup kitchen, or tutoring in under-resourced schools. It also might include a ministry of presence with someone who yearns for a person to listen to his or her story. On each Global Community Building Trip, we try to include some form of meaningful service work that puts students in direct contact with members of their host community. Each community has identified specific needs, and through our trips, our hope is to work with community members to meet some of these needs.
Life can get complex. Sometimes we need to strip away some of that complexity to remember what is profoundly important. Focusing on simplicity allows us to reconnect with what is essential. Through simplicity, participants can explore and question how their own lifestyles are connected to and interdependent with the lives of others.
Reflection is the integrating process that helps make meaning of service and justice experiences by placing them in dialogue with the other parts of our lives. Within the context of Global Community Building Trips, reflection is often as important as the service performed on a given day. Each evening on trips, groups gather for an hour or so to reflect on the day’s experiences. Many participants find this activity to be the most rewarding aspect of the experience.
Cultural exchange is an important focus if VISION teams are to enter these experiences respectfully and leave them enriched. We must tread lightly, and travel with humility, always remembering that we are foremost learners generously invited as guests by our community partners. Cultural Exchange is a two-way street: allowing you to share your culture with those you visit and learning about theirs, too. Each member of the team will have a chance to be immersed in the culture of the community partner as well as explore their own.