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SEND Students Give Back Through Service

Alicia Collins ‘21

Arts and Entertainment Editor

Several applications are still open for 2020 spring and summer SEND trips. The Merrimack College Campus Ministry department runs SEND trips, which allows students to travel both domestically or abroad to partake in ways to give back to the community through service as well as obtain cultural immersion from the place they are living. 

There are nine SEND trips per year and they are all a week each. These weeks occur during the winter, spring, or summer breaks to allow for the trips to not interfere with student’s academic schedules. 

Many other colleges or universities may call these trips “alternative break” trips, however, Merrimack College wants the focus of the trips to be on service. SEND trips are also different from studying abroad. Even though some of the SEND trips do go abroad and students do get a cultural experience, Nicole Benenvenia, who runs the SEND Program, explains that study abroad opportunities are only based on benefiting the person experiencing the study abroad opportunity. She believes that having the experience of the culture is an added benefit to the students. “Making yourself vulnerable in service to others” is the focus Benvenia wants students to get out of the SEND trips. Meaning that Merrimack students should allow themselves to serve and be willing to be served by the area they visit.

SEND trips also focus on helping the communities of the areas students travel to that may need the most help. This also sets SEND trips apart from studying abroad opportunities. As Benenvenia explains, when SEND sent students to Ecuador, they did not have them learning about history or visiting other touristy areas of Ecuador. They instead go to the slums of Ecuador’s Guayaquil to learn the histories of those people and really obtain an understanding of why they have been forgotten about in history. In the end, student on SEND trip should not be at the center of the trip as a whole. 

Currently SEND has nine different community locations and partners where they will be running trips. Some of these trips include Costa Rica, New Jersey, West Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, South Dakota, San Diego, Peru, and Ecuador. The Costa Rica trip is the newest of the SEND program trips and will be running during the winter break. 

In the past there have also been trips to Jamaica, Nicaragua, Washington D.C., Baltimore, and New York. Benvenia wants to focus on sending students to places where she believes they will have the most powerful experiences. The SEND trips also change on a year to year basis to continually adapt to the ever-changing issues students are most concerned about. 

For more information or how to get involved with Merrimack College Campus Ministry’s SEND programs, please visit the Merrimack College Campus Ministry website to stay updated on when SEND trips will be happening.