Juniors Grace Anderson, Caroline Byrnes, Sloane Cronan, Phoebe Fulton, Claire Hendricks, Ava Hubbs, Elizabeth Jackson, Sydney Porter, Anika Roche, Lucy Sutherland and senior Maeve Callahan-Murphy, along with Jean Frazier Leadership Institute director Lauren Hitron and biology teacher Johanna Schrage, joined Hand in Hand Ministries on a week-long immersion trip to Belize. Sacred Heart Academy was so excited to finally embark on this service trip after several years of delays due to COVID-19 and weather.
Gracie Anderson remarked, “This was a life-changing trip because it proved to me that we are all human and can work together to achieve a greater goal even when we don’t speak the same language.”
JFLI director Lauren Hitron shared her reflection:
St. Angela told us that we have more of a need to serve than to be served. She also told us that should we feel unprepared for the work for which we are called; to not fear because God will provide. This was evident during the immersion trip with Hand in Hand Ministries in Belize. At the beginning of the trip, I wondered how we would ever be able to build a home. Few of us had any experience with construction, but with the supportive guidance of the Hand in Hand team, our SHA group built a home ahead of schedule, in only three days. As one student put it, we built this home with blood, sweat and tears (of joy). I was so impressed with the work ethic of the students who jumped right in without complaining. At one point, two students had been hammering huge nails into the aluminum roof for hours in the hot sun. They did not want to come down until they finished the job.
We also got to know the new homeowner, Carla, and her fourteen year-old son. She is going back to get her college degree and built the home alongside of us, as well as many of her neighbors and family. She worked so hard to have this opportunity of a new home through Hand in Hand. It was so fortunate that Carla was our homeowner because she truly is a Strong Woman of Great Faith, and a wonderful model for our Valkyries. Her story and example inspired all of us, and I believe gave us the strength to finish the job. Once the job was complete, we planned a house blessing for Carla and her son. Students made her a sign-- “Carla’s Cabin”-- and signed the back to help her remember our team and keep a little piece of the (Sacred) Heart with her. Carla’s influence will stay with us forever. Throughout the week as the house began to take shape, it was almost as if Carla and everyone in the neighborhood stood a little taller. We pray the home will be a beacon of hope for that neighborhood.
We were so welcomed by the people of Belize. During breaks on the worksite, our students talked with the neighbors and played basketball with the children. Our students saw that we have more in common with each other than we have differences between us. We loved visiting the preschool at Hand in Hand and playing with the children. The team from Hand in Hand was so generous and made this such an enriching experience; Nen who prepared traditional Belizean meals for us, James who drove and guided us every step of the way, Beto and Louis who taught us how to build a house, and Abel and Maggie who welcomed us with open arms. Getting to know the people of Belize was the true gift of the immersive experience. We were all deeply touched by the people we met on this trip.
Servant leaders come to leadership through the desire to serve others. As the director of the Jean Frazier Leadership Institute, I believe these types of immersive experiences are so important for our students to develop empathy for others and to discover their own ability to positively impact others, even at a young age. Mrs. Schrage and I told the students that we hope they will always remember this experience and know that they can do hard things. We hope they will recall their strength from every nail hammered, concrete block they lifted, or wall they raised the next time that they face adversity. They can and will push forward. They each gained confidence in their own abilities and learned that they truly can make a difference.
After the home was complete, the SHA students and chaperones had a little fun. They saw the Mayan Temples at Altun Ha, and spent the day on Cay Caulker where they swam with sharks and snorkeled at the Belize Barrier Reef. They fed tarpon fish and saw sea horses. The Valkyries jumped right into this adventure just as they had with the home build.
Welcome home, Valkyries! We are proud of your servant leadership!