Students Serve Those in Need during Winter Break

February 8, 2017

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For most college students, winter break is a time to head home and enjoy well-deserved time off with family and friends. But a group of Canisius students participated in Winter Service Week (WSW) spending time giving back to those less fortunate.

Organized by the Office of Campus Ministry, WSW gives students the opportunity to participate in a variety of ministries in both urban and rural settings. Each evening, students take time to reflect on the days’ events.

“Winter Service Week experiences ignite a passion in the students to be men and women for and with others” says Alice Zicari, associate campus minister. “It’s a great way for students to grow in their desire to work for social justice.  They learn the benefits of simplicity, they’re challenged to be in solidarity with the people they encounter, they explore their spirituality and discover how their faith relates to the world,” she adds.

The Canisius contingent divided into groups to serve various locations and agencies across the state.

Some traveled to Syracuse, NY to volunteer with Catholic Youth Organizations (CYO). They also visited a refugee resettlement, helped in pre-K and inclusive classrooms, assisted with an after-school program and worked with disabled teens and refugees.

A three-day immersion experience at the Liturgia, Rural & Migrant Ministry Inc.’s Rural Education Center, in Lyons, NY, introduced students to the contemporary issues that farmworkers face.  During their stay, students met with year-round farmworkers and served as conversation partners in English as a Second Language (ESL) classrooms.

About an hour south of the Rural Education Center another group of students spent the week at The Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY. The sanctuary rescues, rehabilitates, and provides care for hundreds of animals saved from stockyards, factory farms and slaughterhouses.  Canisius students learned about animal rights and environmental issues. They also helped lay bedding for the animals, muck the barns, paint, rake and assist with other grounds maintenance projects.

Margaret Treichler ’19 was one of several students who volunteered alongside the sisters of the St. Benedictine Community, in Erie, PA. The group actually stayed at the monastery and experienced a day-in-the-life of the sisters. “The trip definitely re-ignited my passion for social justice and for helping those who cannot help themselves,” she said.

“Everything they do is with the intention of helping other people, which is truly incredible and admirable,” adds Treichle.  She notes that the group volunteered at an education center for adults and children, a community center for disabled adults, a soup kitchen and a food bank. “My week in Erie was such a blessing and I am so thankful for it.”

Chanel Davis ’17 was similarly grateful for her Winter Service Week experience at the Ndakinna Education Center, in Saratoga Springs, NY. She and the Canisius team learned about the region’s rich Native American culture and history, nature awareness, land stewardship and basic wilderness survival techniques. Students also assisted with trail construction and maintenance, facility upkeep and even maple sugar collection.

“It was really great to build on the friendships with my team during the different activities on the trip,” says Davis. “I now have a greater appreciation of Native American culture and a deeper understanding of the harmony that exists between the mind, the body, the spirit and the Earth.”

38 Canisius students participated in Winter Service Week.

Canisius is one of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation and the premier private university in Western New York.