SUU Students Spend Holiday Hard at Work in MexicoJanuary 14, 2009
A select group of Southern Utah University students spent their holiday break in Mexico. Not vacationing on the beach or lounging in warm southern skies, but rolling up their sleeves and packaging a variety of gifts not soon to be forgotten for some of the Mexican Pacific coast’s most needy.
The students, who spent just over a week in Guaymas and Hermosillo, Mexico, engaged in a range of service-oriented activities, from delivering shoes, clothing and toys to families in need, to completing a water purification program, providing nutrition counseling, and remodeling a dirt-floor lot into a modern and comfortable home.
Among the students on the trip was Brian Cummins, a senior construction management major from Hurricane, Utah who called the experience "a real eye opener," and although his time in Mexico was "too short," he is already making plans for he and his wife to make a return trip to the same area during spring break.
"It was a real opportunity for me to spend Christmas a little differently this year - to give a little bit more than I usually do," said Cummins. Speaking about the remodeling of the lot as the highlight of his time in Mexico, he said, "It was really amazing. This is a woman who essentially had no running water and was cooking all her meals outside in a swarm of flies, and before we left, she had a propane stove, a kitchen sink and cupboards for the first time in her life."
"The work was very hands-on and gritty at times," added Cummins. "We did almost everything by hand - we dug through tough rock, blisters on our hands, and somehow seemed to really enjoy the experience."
Also joining the service-based excursion was SUU Junior Kevin Sandall, also a construction management major from Elko, Nevada who marked this holiday season with his first trip beyond the U.S. border. Commenting on the most rewarding aspect of the trip, Sandall said, "To really see what made a meaning and lasting impact on someone's life was remarkable. The most challenging part was just seeing all the neighbors and others in need that we were not able to assist on this trip and wishing we could have done more for them."
SUU Assistant Professor of Construction Management Boyd Fife, who accompanied the students in an advisory role, has nothing but praise for the program and the opportunity for student involvement, calling it a "unique chance for students to work in a real environment where they can see the fruits of their labor come to bear in a just a week.” Fife added, “The students’ perspectives are broadened by assisting people who cannot provide for themselves.”
Fife also praised the large number of southern Utah area businesses who donated money and material to help make the project a success.
The College of Computing, Integrated Engineering and Technology and its students are already deep in preparation for their next service trip. Students and the college are currently soliciting donations for the next trip as well. In addition, the money from the sale of the annual home SUU students build in the Cedar City area is essentially "recycled" and put back into these service trips.
Both Cummins and Sandall recommend the program to anyone looking for a great service opportunity and a chance to see a different part of the world. "There are a lot of things you can do as a student to help your own family, church or other students, but to have this kind of experience a thousand miles from where you live and to actually see it…is just priceless," added Sandall.