It is difficult to imagine how big the planet Earth actually is, and how many different cultures take part in the mosaic of existence. Often, the hustle and bustle of everyday life prevents us from being able to experience the world and offer help where it is required. SEA provides Brock students with the opportunity to do just that – travel to various parts of the world to take part in charitable projects, partnering with the local communities to benefit those that call these areas home.
Brock’s Catholic Chaplain Raoul Masseur started Solidarity Experiences Abroad (SEA) in 2004, allowing students to participate in hands on social justice by helping poverty stricken communities to develop educational, medical and community stability, by building schools, medical facilities and clinics, as well as better roads and pathways. What makes the SEA program so unique is the way that the group assists the communities. Where many other programs tend to walk into a community and fix what they deem needs fixing, the SEA works in direct collaboration with community leaders, giving assistance where it has been specifically requested, emphasizing the solidarity of the entire project.
In the midst of the global slacktivism trend, where activists speak out passionately from the comfort of their armchair, SEA takes pride as a project that gets dirtunderneath your fingernails.
“There is often a disconnect between the contribution of the organizer and the work being done,” said Matt St. Louis, the man in charge of the SEA program here at Brock. “The principle of solidarity makes the bridge between hand and hand and puts charity into action.”
“There are people with different motivations that begin the trip, but afterwards, and even during, those motivations tend to change to focus on the efforts put forward by the program,” said Natasha Vey, a veteran of the SEA program. “People have changed their career path based on their experiences here at Solidarity Experiences Abroad.”
Vey also found herself debating dropping out of school in her third year, struggling to balance her desire to travel and passion for helping others with the boundaries of the academic institution. SEA offered her the opportunity to explore social justice abroad while combining the skills that she had acquired through her time in school. A recent graduate of Brock University, Vey will soon be embarking on her sixth trip with the group, this time heading to Peru.
SEA is put on by the Brock University Faith and Life Centre, but the program would like to emphasize that there is no religious obligation whatsoever, and that anyone is welcome to sign up to be a participant. The only stipulation being that those wanting to get involved with in SEA must be open minded and willing to positively experience the unique and interesting aspects of a culture that is brand new to them.
“This is a fantastic intro to the world,” said St. Louis. “It opened my eyes to a world of travelling and the people that you meet in these places. At this point, I have literally travelled the world and this program helped to cultivate that love and interest.”