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Monday, January 24, 2011

What to do with an immersion experience?

What to do with an Immersion Experience?
I went on my first trip to the Dominican 16 years ago. There is no question that this was an experience that changed the way I looked at the world. You hear people say that all the time, but what does this mean?

I think immersion trips can give you a new lenses to look at the world. You live your life seeing things a certain way and then all of this world view is upset when you realize that the world is not really the way you have experienced it.

I like the analogy of head, heart and hands or see, judge act – whichever way you put it, your immersion experience is a personal conversion – don’t let anyone tell you the experience will be like this or that – it is a personal experience. The conversion will lead you to a different world view. What I think it really important is what you do with that conversion.

This is where the ‘judging’ comes in, or the heart – you have seen what the majority world looks like, so what are you going to do with that new information? What are you motivated to do with all this? Whatever it is, and there are many ways to act on your knowledge, the change that you want to see happen should take place up here, in the North.

One thing I would suggest is that you read a lot once you return – try to put together why things are as you see them. What is there such grinding poverty and why do we allow this poverty to exist. Why is there so much destruction and misery in Haiti a year after the earthquake? So, educate yourself, then look for ways you can change the structures that exist in the North that allow this imbalance to continue. Try to find ways to ask difficult questions and earn to be critical of a world that benefits from this inequality.

Think about social justice – do charity. Make sure that you can keep both going when you act. Acting or ‘hands’ is the last part of all this. You have seen the world, you are learning to reach conclusions, now, what are you going to do with all of this? Sure, charity work will always be important – the people of Haiti need new homes, schools and real employment and healthcare. But you are going to have to ask yourself – why does this happen in Haiti, in the Dominican Republic, in El Salvador and in so many parts of the Global South. Where is the justice in all the poverty that exists – what do we who benefit from so much in the world going to do to right the balance?

That can easily take a lifetime to answer – just make sure you act as well as ask.

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