On Saturday, October 8, ten students and two professors left early for the Nashville airport to begin their journey to Trinidad and Tobago. They started off with a two-hour trip to Houston and another five hours to Trinidad. Once they landed in the Port of Spain airport, the students smoothly went through immigration and customs. Outside three vans waited o take them to the West Indies Theological College (WITC). The students have written their stories of the trip below and we hope that you will journey with us on our trip in Trinidad.
Ron Maurer, Chair of the Department of Social Work and a trip sponsor
During a group meeting, Cleveland, one of the students said that the citizens of Trinidad are hospitable, but they tend to show a little extra to foreigners—they respect and welcome strangers. While this behavior is a face, it's not superficial. They're not trying to act like they are more righteous than they truly are. They're showing extra love because they want to, because their love is humble. This love is one that uproots pride, not by any sort of prophetic gifting, but because it is so authentic that selfishness is purged in its presence. Their love is what love is supposed to look like. Brennan Finchum
This week has been a busy time work, learning and experiencing Trinidadian culture. We have been soaking up every minute and are already sad to see this week come to a close. Today, Thursday, we had the opportunity to go out the community and see some social service agencies here in Trinidad. First, we continued to work on our week-long project of painting the laundry room here on the WITC campus. It has been a labor of love for us and we are encouraged to see the drastic change a little bit of paint can make and are happy to do this service for our friends here at WITC.
After lunch, we set out to visit a School for the Blind, a public school teaching kindergarten through 12th grade. We were able to visit the children in their classes and hear from them their names, ages, what they like to do, and what their individual conditions were that caused their blindness. We also had the opportunity to see how a braille machine works and also the special computer software that the school uses which enables their students to use regular computers. . . . The special treat of our visit was having a group of the students sing songs for us. One young man had extraordinary talent on the keyboard and led the children in singing for us. It was a beautiful experience.
Later in the afternoon, we visited a retirement/nursing home for the elderly in that community. We had a wonderful tour of the beautiful grounds and then and the opportunity to visit with a group of residents. It was very special to hear all the stories and life experiences of these men and women and also share with them about who we are and why we were here. After visiting these two agencies and seeing what these service are like in comparison to our American agencies, we headed back with our favorite maxi driver, Randy, to WITC for dinner and class in the evening.
In class this evening we discussed families and the unique challenges they present to the the social work and social justice helping professions. We had the opportunity to discuss our family structure with one of our West Indian classmates and were also able to hear from them. It was interesting to compare and contrast the family dynamics and structure from our two cultures.
I have loved my time here. We have seen a culture that is very different from our own and yet has many underlying similarities. I have loved trying the new foods, learning island dances, and forming new relationships with the people. We have all been struck at how generous and hospitable the people are here in the island and hope that we can learn a thing or two about what it means to be a host and love one’s “neighbor.” Rebekah Peoples
I cannot believe we are already through our week in Trinidad. I can only speak for myself, but my time here has been nothing short of amazing. Getting to know about Trinidad and Tobago has been quite interesting, visiting the Red House, the equivalent of our White House, and hearing stories of persecution and triumph has been quite encouraging. . . . It has truly been wonderful to work ALONGSIDE the individuals we are here to serve, not just work on our own. We now all have a sense of ownership of the things that have been accomplished, both us and the students here. How beautiful is that?! I have spent a decent amount of time in the Caribbean, and knew that I loved the culture; however, in my time in this part of the world I had never experienced a classroom setting. Sitting in our class in the evenings with the students from the West Indies has been quite an eye-opening experience. I realize how similar we truly are as far as cultural needs go. We all have 'ssues, and we all approach them in very similar ways. It has been beautiful to see our seemingly two different worlds come together as one. Debra Miller