NU students travel to Panama on B.A.S.I.C. trip
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Niagara University's B.A.S.I.C. program, the acronym stands for "Brothers And Sisters In Christ," and it consists of mission trips to poor communities to work side-by- side with people in the Vincentian spirit of charity. The program includes trips to Camden, N.J., Philadelphia, Pa, Little Rock, Ark, and finally the Republic of Panama.
The Panama trip takes place every other January, and lasts just shy of two weeks. The inspiration for this article is that most recent trip, which occurred during the winter break.
The trip was chaperoned by Monica Saltarelli, campus minister, and William Newton, assistant director of Campus Activities. They were accompanied by 12 NU students as well various Vincentian priests and sisters from throughout the country. After landing in Panama City, we embarked on a 12-day journey through most of central and western Panama, visiting almost all of its nine provinces.
The rolling hills, mountains and sunbathed beaches were indescribable, but if asked what the best part of the trip was, the unanimous answer by the group would be "the people."
In reference to the unemployed communities, Saltarelli said, "The touching thing is that the families affected were so hospitable and generous with us."
Lack of money and work did not seem to kill the Panamanian spirit, nor did it seem to affect how giving they were of themselves to others. We visited a few, small, poor communities in the province of Chiriquí, and each time we were greeted with delicious food - even when the people in the community were struggling to find enough to eat for themselves.
The Panama Canal, Caribbean Sea, Pacific Ocean and a short visit to Costa Rica were just a few highlights of the trip. In Puerto Amuelles, a city of about 30,000 people, we split up into groups of two and three people to be escorted to our host families for two nights. Each family was very gracious, offering their homes for the students to sleep in.
In Colón, Santa Clara, Volcán and Panama City, the Vincentian priests were kind enough to offer their residences, as well as their time, showing us around the different cities. We were able to visit two nursing homes, several historic Catholic churches, a drug rehabilitation center, and numerous other institutions.
Speaking of the trip as a whole, sophomore student Sasha Cadiz said, "(it) was a complete eye-opening experience for me. ... I wouldn't have traded that opportunity for anything."
The next B.A.S.I.C. trip will be to Little Rock, Ark, and will take place during NU's upcoming spring break. If you are interested in participating in this trip or other B.A.S.I.C. outings, e-mail Saltarelli at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her office is located in the Lower Level Gallagher Center, next to the WNIA radio station.