Opinion: Short-term service isn’t “short term” at all


Calvin Tran, music therapy senior, plays ukulele for a patient at St. Teresa's Home for the Destitute and Dying in Kingston, Jamaica, during the Ignacio Volunteer trip December 2017. Photo credit: Lily Cummings

Katelyn Fecteau

Adriana Smith


World Religions


Carrie Fenton


English Literature

Part of being a man or woman for and with others is service. People engage in service with their communities, with religious groups, with families or as individuals. Loyola provides many service opportunities both on and off campus, through coursework in the form of service learning, as extracurriculars (like LUCAP or the Knowledge Extension for Youth program), and the immersive service program Ignacio Volunteers.

Ignacio Volunteers is a staff-led and student facilitated program in which students can engage in either domestic or international service. Students apply for the program and teams are constructed based on the needs of both the applicants and the communities they will be entering into. In each Ignacio Volunteer program there are two main goals, to learn and to serve. These goals are deeply integrated into the preparation and trips. At all points in the process of becoming an Iggy Volunteer, the focus and primary attention is centered on the communities they will be serving. Ignacio Volunteers and similar programs have been the subject of criticism in the past for their “short term” nature.

The Ignacio Volunteers program at Loyola disrupts the stereotypical image of short-term service. Students in the program prepare for months through research and discussion under the guidance of trained staff in order to best prepare themselves to accompany the marginalized. During and following the period of immersion, teams meet for further discussion and processing. Though the immersion experience itself lasts only six to 14 days, the effects are designed to be long lasting. The actual acts of service students perform while on immersion are done with groups or organizations that are already a part of or serving the focus community. These acts are typically additional help for the community not necessarily grandiose, but still necessary for assisting those in long-term positions to sustain the dignity of those being served.

Through Ignacio Volunteers, education becomes bound to service. The program conducts immersive service experiences in New Orleans, Jamaica and South Africa every year. Through rigorous education and training, students work to build and sustain a sense of solidarity with those experiencing marginalization on both a local and global level. Short-term service, when conducted intentionally and with respect for all its members, is not short term at all. The “short term” of the service dissipates as volunteers enter into a new way of encountering the world following the immersion, one that constantly calls into question systems and how they operate, seeks continued knowledge and deeper opportunities to serve.

If you are interested in engaging with the programs offered through Ignacio Volunteers, there will be an information night hosted in the Audubon Room on March 4 at 6 p.m. Applications are currently open, with a due date of March 18, and can be found at mm.loyno.edu/ignacio.