Spanish Teacher Sierra Cheney and English Teacher Maya Kehr Yoder took a group of 13 students to the Coamo/Aibonito area of Puerto Rico to build connections with our sister school Academia Menonita Betania.
“I feel the entire trip was valuable for me. The relationships created with the students were worth it and all experiences caused growth for me in my language and my people skills,” said Sarena Gerber (‘20).
Our group set out to do just that: build our understanding of Puerto Rico, build our Spanish speaking skills, and, most importantly, build relationships. Our group landed early morning on Sunday, March 28 in San Juan. Our gracious hosts took us to the campus of Academia Menonita Betania where we would stay at the Oasis building and Casita that they have on campus to host volunteers. We rested, attended the Sunday morning service at Iglesia Menonita Betania, swam in a waterfall at the Bosque Toro Negro, ate dinner at sunset, and kicked off a week that would be full of growth and gozo (joy).
We were continually proud at the way our students were able to remain flexible and get out of their comfort zones. Within the first few days, we were already noticing an increase in confidence and ability in our student’s Spanish. We also witnessed a growth in their awareness of Puerto Rican culture and a comfort that developed between IMS students and Betania students. Abby Fritz (‘20) said, “I learned a lot about the Puerto Rico culture and I love it.”
Our devotional series on poverty alleviation from the Chalmers Center felt God-breathed in the way it connected daily to our experiences. In this series, we are asked to acknowledge the ways in which helping has hurt in the past. The series calls us to build long-term relationships and listen well. This is what we hope to do.
Our goal is to return and continue strengthening our relationship with Academia Menonita Betania. Cheney’s students will continue their pen pal relationship with Betania students. As teachers, we hope to continue returning to Puerto Rico regularly through our Service and Learning Term.
This was the number one joy for our students: building relationships with the people in Puerto Rico.
We’d like to send a special thanks to Betania Board Director Alex Gonzalez, Principal Antonio Zayas, Spanish Teacher Carmen Rivera, Pastor José Luis Vargas and family who welcomed us so generously into their community. We were recipients of so much generosity: thank you!