A group of Hendrix College students spent part of their winter break on a mission trip to Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas.
Associate Vice President for Development Wayne Clark, who accompanied the ten students, said they partnered with One Eleuthera Foundation. He said the group spent time working in a garden and recycling center, conducted breast cancer awareness surveys, taught in local schools, assisted with plumbing work and conducted research to help start a junior college.
Clark said he’s been at Hendrix College for 22 years and every year the school takes a mission trip.
He said around 15 years ago, the school started making the trips more affordable to students and numbers went up. Since then, the college has committed that those mission trips are such a good idea that costs have remained low enough for students to go.
Clark said they feel strongly that these trips are providing multiple benefits to students including the impact they have.
While they have been criticized for spending money on the trip instead of sending the finances straight to the nonprofit, he said what can’t be measured is the change in the students when they realize their love and desire to serve.
"It’s those kind of things you can’t measure," Clark said.
Hendrix has worked with the Eleuthera Foundation for more than 15 years and five mission trips have traveled to the island.
Clark said the teams don’t go there to teach the people how to do something the "right way," but they are there to learn from the residents and their way of life while serving and helping them with whatever they need.
"We feel like it’s building bridges and building relationships and learning from other cultures and other people," he said. "[Eleuthera Foundation is] such a great nonprofit that practices that same philosophy."
Clark said the students did a great job and were challenged in multiple ways.
"There’s emotional things you deal with and there’s physical stuff you go through," he said.
Clark said he often has students who are impacted so much that they return for a longer time frame to serve, which is inspiring to him. He said he loves getting to be a part of that.
"You see that growth … all the ways people’s eyes are opened," Clark said.
The ten students who participated in the trip were Ethny Ashcraft, Katie Bell, Graydon Carter, Isabella Crang, Miracline Ebijoyeldhas, Andrew Fleming, Mackenzie Gearin, Amanda Jimerson, Claire Nissen and Melissa Sorby.
"The Miller Center trip has helped me form meaningful relationships with my Hendrix peers and the community members of Eleuthera," Ebijoyeldhas said. "This trip has opened my eyes to the needs of communities other than my own and my potential role in serving those needs I hope to take the kindness and compassion the people of Eleuthera have showed me back to our Hendrix home."
Through the trip, Jimerson said she learned about the importance of starting conversations with just the intent of listening.
"I have learned that we all have something to gain from one another, even if just through sharing experiences and ideas," she said.
After traveling with Hendrix on more than 20 mission trips, Clark said he learns something new about himself each time.
He said he’s learned a lot about people society often dismisses.
"I look at people different now," Clark said. "I’ve had some pretty great experiences."