|Caroline Ireland (left) poses in front of a building being constructed|
Well before Caroline Ireland graduated from Windham High School in 2015, her immediate future had already been mapped out. It began at an early age when she was in the girls’ youth group Challenge, run by Regnum Christi, a movement of the Catholic Church. Through this movement,
Ireland joined Mission Youth as one of many missionaries that serve communities in the US and abroad in their specific needs.Ireland’s interest in serving others is obviously innate. “I have always been a very curious person. My curiosity has definitely prodded my passion for volunteerism. I think all humans have a unique story to tell and I am always eager to listen. My passion and interest in service/volunteering also stems from my family. My parents and older siblings have always volunteered their time in a variety of ways.”
Once in high school it would be through the organization of Mission Youth that the first taste of travel and service would take place. “I knew they offered international service trips for high school students, so when I was a junior at Windham High School, my friend Katherine (who I did Challenge with) and her mom invited me to join them in Haiti. Of course I wanted to go so in July of 2014 I embarked on my first international service trip,” shared Ireland.
Haiti proved to be a really shocking and quite the influential trip. While there, she was exposed to a brand new culture and a country that was living in extreme poverty. “At first it was hard to look past all the trash and filth. I remember being genuinely repulsed at first, but then when I opened my heart to the people there I could see the inner beauty,” stated Ireland.
One day spent at the Home for the Dying, simply massaging the women in need was enough to learn the value of and importance of the human connection. “That day the simple act of the human touch and connection truly moved me. I vividly remember that day and am so grateful for the intimate experience I had with those women and the lessons they taught me,” continued Ireland.
|A typical Haitian Day|
As a senior, things really took off. It started with the search for college. “I was unsure of what to study because I like a lot of things. I have always been passionate about people. I know I have the skills to work well with people and communities,” said Ireland. It was this mindset that lead to the decision to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work. “I also believe I can grow as a human being in this field which is important,” continued Ireland.
Anselm College in New Hampshire was her choice. “When I was applying for colleges, I knew I wanted to attend a liberal arts catholic college. Also I wanted a school that was aesthetically appealing, had great food, and was challenging academically. Saint A's fit that description perfectly. Saint A's is incredibly hospitable and many people here are involved with service,” said Ireland.
Anselm was also chosen for its reputation and dedication to community service. But that was not the only reason. During school, Ireland works for the Meelia Center for Community Engagement (MCCE), a service/volunteer center on campus. “The Meelia Center is what sets Saint A's apart from a lot of other small liberal Arts Colleges and I'm truly grateful to work for such a meaningful place! Also Saint A's is home,” continued Ireland.
Just three weeks ago Ireland embarked on a trip to Guatemala. This one included her parents. “It has always been my dream to go on a service trip with my family, because now we can share in this unique and educational experience together,” explained Ireland. Saint Joseph's College in Standish has been offering trips run though Partners in Development (PID) for over 10 years and with her parents connected to the school - her mother the dean of students and her father a clinical instructor for nursing, a family trip came to fruition.
And so began the connection to PID. “It was a no-brainer when my mother asked if I would be interested in going. I immediately said yes. So, I didn't necessarily pick to work with PID, the opportunity sort of presented itself,” said Ireland, According to her, PID is an organization that truly brings about positive change. “While I was in Guatemala I learned more and more about this organization and I got to meet some of the sponsored children, work on the construction site of two dwellings, and truly see the impact this organization is making on these children and their families,” continued Ireland.
|There is always time to have fun|
Now 19 and a sophomore, Ireland is adding to her life lessons while pursuing that bachelor’s degree in social work. This week she will be leaving the USA to further her studies in and around Orvieto, Italy for one semester. The time there will be spent learning, which includes travelling two days a week in other Italian cities to visit museums. Spare time will be spent exploring the rest of Europe. “In my free time or open weekends I hope to go to Ireland, France and other countries as well,” said Ireland. With a sister that lives and works in Israel, there are definite plans to visit her for Easter.
Although this may temporarily suspend performing service through volunteering, it remains a priority in her life. For others who may have a shared interest but are unsure about pursuing the rewards, “I think the best piece of advice I can offer, is to be open to new experiences. Be open to learning from someone who is different from you. Be open to learning about and engaging with a different culture from your own. Be in the present! Volunteering is a wonderful way to use your talents for good, as well as gain new insight and perspective from the people you are serving,” concluded Ireland.
To learn more about these volunteer opportunities visit: www.missionyouth.com/ and www.pidonline.org/programs/guatemala