By Kaeli Todd
A group of Saint Mary’s students and faculty traveled to Madurai, India over winter break to volunteer as a part of the Serving Others United in Love (S.O.U.L.) Program. The group stayed and worked at an orphanage called Boys’ Village, which is run by the Christian Brothers in Southern India, according to SMU student Joe Graphenteen.
“There were buildings at Boys’ Village that needed to be painted so they could be rented out to people to make more money,” said Graphenteen. The group would spend about half of the day working and painting, and the other half was spent socializing and playing games with the boys who live at the orphanage.
“The most common game we played there was soccer – those boys really love to play soccer,” said Graphenteen. “We also got to play some Indian games with them that were a lot of fun too.”
“The boys also taught us their Tamil dancing moves,” said SMU student Miranda Halling. “We did a lot of dancing!”
Graphenteen said the volunteer experience didn’t change his view on volunteering, but reinforced it. “The reason I like to volunteer and travel on S.O.U.L. trips is because of the relationships you gain and seeing the smiles on the faces of the people you help,” he said.
The group performed one act of service that brought smiles to a lot of faces – purchasing soccer uniforms for the boys of the orphanage..
“We purchased the jerseys as a Christmas present for the boys,” said Halling.
“I will never forget handing these jerseys out,” said Graphenteen. “There were about 60 kids, so each member of the trip got to hand out about 8 jerseys. We had all of the kids in a bunch right in front of us. They waited as we called each kid one-by-one to receive their jersey. The look of excitement in each of their eyes was an image that I will never forget.”
The students who went on the trip suggest that anyone who is interested in a S.O.U.L. trip apply to attend one.
“Time is running out to be able to travel the world,” said Graphenteen. “There is so much to see and so much to learn, and there is a lot you can learn from yourself when you step outside the box and take advantage of these trips while they are still here.”
For more information about S.O.U.L. trips, contact Campus Ministry.