It’s been a little over a week since I returned home from an experience that has most definitely changed my life – and for the better.
Over spring break, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Merida, Mexico, on an Alternative Break Service Trip with nine other Gannon students and two adult advisers. I decided to apply for the trip in the fall after attending an informational session with one of my roommates on a whim.
While I was at the session, something spoke to my heart and I felt compelled to apply for a trip that would surely take me out of my comfort zone.
Looking back on the week spent in the Yucatan Peninsula with some of the most beautiful people I have ever met, I am so glad I took the leap and applied.
The moment we arrived in Mexico, I knew I had made the right choice to attend. My group arrived at the Merida airport around 7 p.m. and were greeted by two women – Tricia and Lanora – whom we would all grow to love deeply by the end of the week.
Tricia is the current coordinator of the Mission of Friendship in Merida and Lanora is a longtime volunteer at the mission. Both women radiate God’s love in all they do, and it was truly an honor to get to know them during our week in Mexico.
The next day, we got to attend Mass at the cathedral and do some shopping around the town center, where merchants set up booths with their handmade wares.
The truly transformational part of the week began on Monday when we traveled to the small village of Yaxcaba. In this village, I discovered what it means to love your neighbor.
Each person we encountered in the village welcomed us with kindness and open arms. The Rev. Felix, the pastor of the church in Yaxcaba, showed us so much generosity while we were visiting.
He offered us beds to stay in – and even gave up his own for two nights so that everyone would have a place to sleep. In every interaction we had, it was clear that Father Felix loved God and loved people.
After we returned from the village, we spent two days at Nueva Vida, an afterschool program for girls in first through sixth grade. The girls were so happy and bright. I have no doubt that they will all do great things in this world.
I was particularly moved by two girls – Julia and Yule. When we arrived at Nueva Vida on Friday, Julia and Yule decided that I was the person they wanted to hang out with for the rest of the day.
As I spent time with them, I learned a lot about their interests and hopes for the future. We formed a real bond that day.
It was with tears and many hugs that we said goodbye that afternoon. As I hugged Julia, she looked up at me and asked, “When are you coming back?”
As soon as I can, Julia. As soon as I can.