By Jordan Courage ’16, Gael Community Ambassador
Iona shares Blessed Edmund Rice’s legacy with great pride. While I have always appreciated his dedication to service, I did not entirely understand the underlying purpose of Edmund Rice’s mission to serve the poor and marginalized until winter break 2015. I simply thought Rice was a good man — giving to the poor and sick in Ireland and caring for their children. However, my mission trip to India (along with the other five mission trips that departed in early January), found Edmund to be much more than that.
After returning from India I have had a hard time processing my experience. No words can describe my short time in India, nor can a single article articulate the chaos, diversity, and awe of India. But I still want to share how Edmund Rice has changed my life.
|Jordan Courage '16 during her January 2015 mission trip to India|
Upon arriving in Kolkata, I was immediately faced with sensory overload. From potent smells to bright lights and honking horns, the streets of Kolkata are unlike anything else on earth. Our drive to St. Mary’s School was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. If I learned one thing while in India it was that history books and statistics can only teach you so much about the world. There are more people living in poverty in India than the entire population of the United States. That’s a hard concept to fathom, especially within the limitations of our American perspective. But playing with schoolchildren that lived in homes smaller than my apartment’s closet and witnessing the dire need for volunteers at the Mother Teresa home solidified these “statistics.” Human suffering is very real, and despite the strides that have been made to help the poor and the marginalized, we have a long way to go. If there is one thing I learned in India, it was the awe-inspiring endurance of the human spirit. We are capable of surviving with much less than we would think, and we have a natural instinct in us to find hope in the darkest of places.
In addition to our service experiences, we certainly enjoyed our cultural immersion. We visited the flower market, sipped chai tea from street vendors, shopped, and wrung out laundry at the Mother Teresa’s house until our forearms cramped. By day eight we were exhausted with an overpowering craving for a hamburger and fries. While India challenged me in new ways, thanks to an amazing team, I made it through 12 days with an entirely Indian-based diet, no hot water or running showers, and no technological connection to the outside world.
I am not going to encourage you to go to India or serve the less fortunate of the world like Edmund Rice did. Edmund made a difference because he accepted all walks of life and never turned someone away based on religion, race, economic status or age. In a place like India, Christian Brothers have a strong, purposeful mission. The mission of Edmund Rice is alive, giving hope to all humanity. If a place consumed with religious strife and the caste system can find compassion, then why can’t all of us apply these ethics to our daily life? Edmund Rice simply changed the towns he lived in through acceptance and love for all humanity. Can we do the same?