Puerto Rico service trip to be held in 2022


Laren Reesman, Staff writer

Mercyhurst will host a service trip to Puerto Rico this Spring with Techos Pa ‘Mi Gente, or “Roofs for My People,” an organization similar to Habitat for Humanity.

The trip will last 10 days from May 18-28 in the Spring semester and can count toward the Beyond the Gates requirement.

Sherez Mohamad, Ph.D., began planning this trip at the conclusion of her first year at Mercyhurst last spring into summer.

She feels passionate about providing the world, especially those in poverty, with “decent, clean, affordable housing” and is eager to regenerate the study abroad programs as they were pre-pandemic.

Nonprofit Techos Pa ‘Mi Gente seeks to provide “the construction of decent roofs and housing rehabilitation in communities affected by natural disasters.”

They also offer basic training on house repair techniques and other skills to promote resilience.

Techos Pa ‘Mi Gente reflects the core values of Mercyhurst, working in solidarity, empathy, transparency, volunteer care and diversity.

The group offers six main areas of service—ceiling evaluations, roof reconstruction, housing rehabilitation, construction workshops, security workshops and roof-disaster relief referrals.

“The trips can provide students with a new form of community through the memorable experiences of living, traveling, serving, learning and eating together with a team sharing a common purpose,” said Colin Hurley, executive director of Community Engagement.

Students going on this trip will have a wide range of experiences with different house projects.

Mohamad thinks the physical work and emotional satisfaction will be life-changing for participants because they will have their eyes opened to issues rarely seen in the United States.

She claims we can never fully understand what other people experience as long as we “stay in our own bubble.”

Those with a genuine interest in helping others in need without anything in return, Mohamad said, “can be hard to find sometimes.”

Mohamad also encourages students to gain international service experience if they already participated in domestic service.

She said the way both experiences impact and the type of impact they have are different internationally versus domestically.

“Helping locally brings attention to local matters that you may have been unaware of,” said Mohamad, “but an international service trip raises concerns on a global scale.”

Mohamad stresses that both experiences are “very impactful and beneficial.” They can also show the similarity of issues both local and international societies face.

Cross-cultural connections through service are essential to also teaching students “diverse perspectives and the complexities of the relationship between U.S. and Puerto Rico,” said Mohamad.

For anyone seeking an opportunity to make a difference in the world and start the summer with a life-changing experience, a service trip to Puerto Rico might be the route to take.

Signups closed on Nov. 19 at 5 p.m., and Mohamed is looking forward to the trip.

The Sisters of Mercy and their global orientation should encourage Mercyhurst students and faculty to participate in more service projects like these that aim to bring cultures, communities, and kindness together.

Students are truly the pillar of these opportunities; they have the capacity to make Mercyhurst known for its service on both a domestic and international scale.

Hurley said, “while at first the university team members attending an international or domestic trip may believe they are attending to give some sort of tangible help to another individual, group or community, what we often find is there is a richness in the community and an intangible benefit received that helps to reshape how someone sees and defines poverty, for example.”

This Puerto Rico trip may be a discerning moment for Mercyhurst’s future in service abroad in addition to the established involvement it already has in the Erie community.