South America Immersion and Partnership Program
Some Reflections from Participants

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Chimbote, but I have been moved at every turn. Beginning with the warm welcome of the San Jose Seminary to the incredibly enthusiastic celebration of Colegio Mundo Mejor. The opportunity to spend time with Alejandra, Marcia, Bruno and Ashley was life giving and let us see their school through their experiences. They were bright and shiny young people with clear aspirations for their futures, and we delighted in finding the imilarities between us without the trappings of role or age. How are we alike, how are we different – what is our shared human experience? It is clear that their school belongs to them and that they feel they belong to their school. I have learned, shared and experienced so much in such a short time that I truly feel I have received more than I have given. The Brothers’ work in South America is inspiring and serves to firm my resolve to return to my own community and continue building connections, serving others and trying to live up to the idea of Mundo Mejor – a better world.


Our final school was again an eye opener and a blessing rolled into one. I was inspired once again to find ways to help, and in doing so found myself overwhelmed at the amount of support needed, not just here but around the world. I feel like any help I could provide by myself would be a raindrop in the ocean, and wish we could work together as a team, using our differing perspectives to collectively fundraise and draw attention to the works being done here in South America. I would love for this experience to not only have introduced us to each other, but to have opened doors to each other’s schools and the opportunities we could share to support pastoral work here and at home. This has been the first opportunity I have had since joining EREA to meet with staff from the mainstream schools, and I would personally love for us to find more ways to engage in activities together, whether it be in person or through technology. I feel that joining together with a collective passion such as this could be a really good start.


I’ve been struggling to connect the first part of our trip with the latter part and I think I’ve settled on it being something to do with the value of experiencing and learning about ‘the other’, if it doesn’t sound overly simplistic. The story of the Incas and the Andean people’s way of making sense of the world, pre and post Spanish conquest, is still part of that learning about ‘the other’ – broadening my own understanding of the world and the people in it, beyond my own geographical, historical and cosmological borders. I also reflect on the story of the impact of the Spanish on the Andean people and it provides another lens to view the impact of European settlement on the Aboriginal people of Australia. But there was no ‘syncretism’ here – no attempt to make links (albeit for the conquerors’ own purposes) between existing, indigenous beliefs and practices with a new, imposed world view. I wonder at our capacity to afford some the dignity of their humanity and deny it to others, then and now. I have more thinking to do!


Visiting each school in Peru and Argentina has reinforced for me the strong education and social justice programs offered at Nudgee College. In Argentina, Cardinal Newman students worked hand in hand with their teachers and the community to give back to the less fortunate and create a better future. San Pedro was lead more by the teachers and volunteers in creating a difference but the students are the ones who step forward to accept the need to create a difference through education. In Peru, Fe Y Algeria is changing students, teachers and communities through the power of education. Giving hope is free and liberating. Mendo Mejor has seen the change education can give to a community. It is only our knowledge that separates us, this knowledge comes through the education and the experiences our of communities. Thank you to EREA, Nudgee College and all members on the immersion for this experience.


The Chimbote experience has been very intense. One filled with lots of emotions and pure joy. My experience of the Peruvian culture so far has been one of joy, celebration and welcome. The effort and welcome we have received has been so overwhelmingly generous i have been moved to tears on many occasions. The reverence the students hold for their education and their future direction is something to be aspired too! I have a lot to learn from the way the Peruvian people approach life. The children I have met have the most open hearts. The young man from Mundo mejor who showed us around said it was a great pleasure to spend time talking with us. This is such a great example of the culture and something that is not so common in Australia. The commitment to the pastoral program carried out by the wealthy students is really fantastic. To see, feel and experience the results of the brothers work and the results of their commitment to the vision of Edmund rice is really humbling. My world view of the work done across the world has completely opened up in a new way. I feel really inspired to keep striving for growth and increasing the social justice work in Australia.


The commitment of the staff we met at Fe y Alegria #26 to their students, for me, was the foundation of the liberating education we witnessed. It was a privilege to spend time with Jose and hear of his passion for his students. We didn’t see much of the formal curriculum but I took two particular things away from that day. The garden project is such a wonderful commitment to make their world a better place and is almost a symbol of the hope of the school, the students and the wider community – striving for beauty. The families we met in the nearby homes, who had so little, but aspired for much for their children. The very practical work of the Brothers in that community was really impressive.


Another great day today. I am amazed at the hospitality of the Peruvian people. To be welcomed in such a manner is nothing I have experienced before. It is truly great to feel such apart of the school community so quickly. The outreach program this afternoon was also great. I like the way the students seem to embrace their pastoral program. This is very different to home, where they seem to see it as a chore. It was great to connect with the younger students at the homework club. Even though neither of us could speak the same language, there was definitely a sense of welcoming. This inspires me to take back to school a sense of pride around social justice, adding emphasis to the importance of connecting with the wider community. I believe this is the biggest impact the immersion has had on me so far. I would like to work with the social justice team to develop initiatives that the students can deeply engage with, an engagement very similar to what is seen here.


Another great experience, this time at Colegio Fe y Alegria. I think it truly inspiring that a poor school community is engaging in outreach programs to help other disadvantaged members of the community. A fine example of liberating education whereby the students are given the opportunity not only to learn about justice, but to engage in experiences which will lead them to critically reflect upon justice, and to contribute to a better world for all. It was also great to see the work of the Brothers. There is a clear sense of appreciation shown from the community as a result of their continued efforts.


Meeting and interacting with the students from Cardinal Newman school was a great opportunity. It was fantastic to hear about their experiences with the less fortunate students they work with and the effects it had on them. It was obvious that these students were able to reflect on their privilege and ponder on how they could contribute to making the world a better place in their own small way. The school’s commitment to provide these kind of opportunities for their boys to become more understanding and compassionate towards those less fortunate was evident. These young men were guided by excellent teachers to become more socially aware. The contrast between the privileged lives of students from Cardinal Newman and the poverty in the area surrounding area of San Pedro was stark. However, the atmosphere in San Pedro seemed hopeful and positive. I can only base this on the 2 girls I interacted with who have real aspirations for their future careers – It was amazing to see how committed Valencia is to the students of this school and how determined she is to continue to improve the quality of their school lives and future outcomes.


Wonderful opportunity experiencing both Cardinal Newman and Pedro Claire today. Both schools were truly unique in their own ways of teaching and spreading the spirit of Edmund Rice. It was great to reconnect with the students from Newman and to listen to their individual experiences of their Australian immersion trip and how it continues to impact their spiritual journey. Hearing of the work and significant amount of effort that Valentina contributes to the community of Pedro Claire was a strong reminder of the compassion, mercy and grace that are lived throughout the touch stones. I am also very humbled by Alberto and his beautiful family for hosting us.


I was struck by the how the Pastoral program at Newman, with its focus on spirituality (presence and liberation) and solidarity (compassion), supported and underpinned the aspiration Alberto and his staff have for the students. I heard those young men talk about experiences opening their minds, and having received more than they gave. Their capacity to view difference as an opportunity was a real expression of ‘liberating education’. The work of the staff at St Peter Claver in providing a place of belonging for those young people / that community, where hope and possibility were at the forefront, was inspirational. I saw in both schools such a strong aspirational culture, expressed differently, but both looking to build a better world. Inspiring stuff.


What an amazing set of contrasts during our school visits today which are not unlike the contrasts that exist in our own network of schools! There were differences in regard to resources, space, access to technology and socioeconomic background of families – yet in both communities the passion of teachers and students was so evident in words and actions; a strong sense of hope was expressed by Alberto, Valentina and students at both schools; the relationship between the school emerging from a crisis and growing into a learning partnership for both. “Building a better world” seems to be at the heart of each school’s mission. How fortunate are we to witness this resilience and resolve.


South America Immersion 2018 (1)  South America Immersion 2018 (2)  South America Immersion 2018 (3)  South America Immersion 2018 (4)  South America Immersion 2018 (5)  South America Immersion 2018 (6)
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