Elms College grads called to service in JamaicaBy CORI URBAN , Associated Press
Jul. 20, 2013 6:11 AM ET
CHICOPEE, Mass. (AP) — Twenty-one-year-old Krystyna K. Starsiak, of Chicopee, cites her Catholic faith as the reason she decided to dedicate a year of her life to service.
"It is my way to give back and thank God for all the wonderful blessings I have received in my life," said the 2013 graduate of Elms College, in Chicopee, with a double major in elementary education and history.
She left July 15 for a year of service in Jamaica in the West Indies with Passionist Volunteers International. The service organization, established by the Catholic congregation of Passionists, is based in Jamaica, N.Y.
It is under the direction of the Rev. Lucian Clark, the Passionist priest who previously was in charge of the former Passionist seminary in West Springfield. The Passionist Volunteers work with the rural poor in Jamaica as well as those in the town of Talanga, Honduras.
Volunteers commit to one or two years of international service.
Yet unsure of her placement, Starsiak said volunteers work in places like a home for troubled boys, area schools, mountain villages, health clinics and mission churches.
Kaylie E. Dygon, 21, a classmate from Chicopee who graduated with a degree in nursing from the Elms, is also joining the volunteers.
During her time in Jamaica, Dygon will be working in clinics, doing home visits with the ill/disabled, and children, working in schools and helping at other work sites that are chosen/selected during her orientation in the program.
"I am passionate about helping others," she said.
"This program is very focused on 'walking with the people,' which means not just giving gifts or money, but giving yourself, which I feel is more valuable than any gift that could be given."
Her Catholic faith has been a guiding light as well.
"It is also my faith that gives me the confidence to go forth and embark on this journey," she said.
Lindsay M. Papsin, 23, a 2012 Elms graduate from Shelton, Conn., with a double major in psychology and early childhood education, is currently part of the Passionist Volunteers International; she is entering her second yearlong commitment.
Papsin, who is currently in Jamaica, participated in two Elms service trips with the group and has worked with children and made home visits.
"After my first trip to Jamaica with Elms, I could not stop thinking about the beauty of the people I had met there and wishing I could have more time with them," she said.
The more she thought about it and admired the volunteers she had met, the more she wanted to apply.
"It just felt right that before I settled into a life for myself after college, I would try to be a part of something bigger than myself."
She said she particularly enjoys visiting homes.
"Home visits are where I spend time connecting with families who attend the school I work at or who attend church with me, in the mission of St. Paul of the Cross, a Passionist (hence, Passionist Volunteers International), to reach those less fortunate and on the furthest outreaches," Papsin said.
Starsiak said the education she received at Elms instilled in her values of values of faith, community, justice and excellence.
"The Passionist Volunteers' mission is to accompany the suffering and walk with the poor," she said. "Their mission isn't to accomplish a certain thing, but rather to be with the people of Jamaica."
Starsiak, who went on three service trips to Jamaica as an undergraduate, added the "people's openness, strength, love of life, and faith in God, truly inspired me to reflect on my life and opened my eyes to the issue of social injustices around the world."
"They have taught me lessons, they have shown me love, made me laugh and made me want to be a better person in my own and in God's eyes. If I can do the same for at least some of those people in return, I will feel accomplished at the end of my time in Jamaica."
Volunteering, she continued, isn't about the position one holds, it's about accepting a new way of life.
"It's something any person, big or small, can do anywhere," she said.
"It's helping others to accomplish what you know is important to them, and the goal, in turn, being important to you. It's in knowing the work of doing what you feel is right is never done. It's rarely easy. And it's always worth it."