Students sacrificed spring break for community service

Students sacrificed spring break for community service

Students listening to the hula hālau talk.

Most students were excited for spring break, to have a week of relaxing and not having to worry about school. For some students at Chaminade University, they sacrificed their down time to benefit others.

For the past four years, Chaminade University has been sending eight to 13 students to Volcano on the Big Island to give students the opportunity to learn about the Hawaiian culture and perform community service in a program called the Big Island Immersion. Little did they know the immersion would give them a different perspective on the term community service.

“I have lived on the Big Island my whole life yet I have never experienced my home island the way I did in Volcano and Hilo,” said Amber Alvarez, a freshman at Chaminade. “The people there taught us how to live in a community, to share the aloha spirit and to give selflessly.”

Students who went on the immersion didn’t know what to expect other than the fact that a lot of community service would be done over the course of the week. But the entire group, including staff leaders Maimoa Fineisaloi and Kay Stone, didn’t finalize plans for the week until the day before the group embarked on their trip.

“We wanted students to be involved in learning about the host culture of Hawaii,” said Stone, director of Campus Ministry at Chaminade.

The first day they were on the island, the group hopped right into the cultural learning. They spent time with a hula hālau, where they learned how to dance a hula number and each student received a Hawaiian name.

Along with spending time with the hula hālau, students also embarked on more cultural adventures such as going on a few hikes, one of them being in the Thurston Lava Tubes. Twice during the trip a botanist accompanied them and pointed out various native plants on their hikes. It was on their hike to Mauna Loa where they saw Chaminade’s mascot, the silversword.

In the community service aspect of the immersion, students also were engaged in community service in Volcano with a few organizations and a community center. While there, students cleared land at the community center at Volcano, assisted the Hilo Food Basket and Volcano Food Pantry, organized files, and helped make 500 food bags for kids to take home for the weekend.

Though students noted that it was labor intensive, those who went on the trip came back with changed attitudes on a personal level. For Josie Santiago, a freshman at Chaminade, she had a new perspective on life.

“[I got] a new outlook on life, relationships and honesty with yourself,” Santiago said. “You need all three to be balanced in order to lead a spiritually healthy life.”