Every year during Welcome Week, the Trinity University Volunteer Action Community (TUVAC) hosts a service event aimed at first-year students. Last week on Saturday, Trinity’s Catholic Student Group (CSG) and TUVAC co-sponsored a volunteer event where students spent time with children at a local immigration shelter.
“We went over [to the shelter] and just hung out with the kids — we played sports, we played games,” said Juan Kamel, junior and public relations chair of CSG. “Most of them are from Central America and South America, but some of them are also from India and Bangladesh and China.”
Kamel facilitates biweekly volunteering opportunities at the immigration shelter for CSG members and anyone else who wants to join. These trips to the shelter began two years ago under the guidance of Maria Teresa Alva, former minister of CSG. When Alva moved to Peru last year, Kamel took over the role of facilitating volunteer events.
CSG typically schedules its first trip to the shelter before the school year starts; first-year football players, students enrolled in the Summer Bridge program and other students residing at Trinity over the summer are encouraged to participate. When the event was delayed, TUVAC reached out to CSG members to incorporate the trip into the annual New Student Orientation (NSO) service event.
Joshua Lee, junior and president of TUVAC, explained the goals of the annual service event.
“For new students who are coming into Trinity, it’s a way for them to get connected with the community, but also with other students,” Lee said. “In NSO, we’re usually focused on recruiting as many volunteers as we can, around 50 to 60 students, and we take them to different parts of San Antonio.”
Lee estimates that there were about 40 students in attendance and around 10 leaders of CSG who helped to facilitate the event.
Kamel said that the higher turnout was beneficial.
“Usually, we can get three or four people to like 10 people, so this was a lot more than usual,” Kamel said. “We got to see a lot of kids because they’re separated into different houses [in the shelter]. The more people we have, the more we can split up and visit the kids.”
Lee appreciated how the two organizations were able to bring their different strengths to the service event.
“It just happened that [the CSG leaders] were very experienced and most of them are Spanish-speaking leaders, and so we were just able to combine and work together very well,” Lee said.
Though the children were from all over and spoke a variety of languages, Lee said that language barriers did not impede the group from bonding with the children.
“I think my favorite aspect was that we were able to communicate and help out and socialize with these amazing children at the immigration shelter regardless of whether we spoke their language,” Lee said. “It was so amazing how everybody was able to get along very well regardless of differences in language.”
TUVAC has three different sectors of volunteer opportunities: health and wellness; environmental and animal shelter awareness; and education and children outreach. This event fit into the last category, and Lee said that TUVAC will host similar events in the future.
“We do plan to do a lot more [events] focused on the immigration shelter and children in general,” Lee said.
CSG will also host more volunteer events for this upcoming semester, both at the immigration shelter as well as at other locations in San Antonio.
“We just try to be there for people who need help,” Kamel said. “If anyone wants to come, they’re more than welcome to contact me or anyone else in the Catholic Student Group, and we have a sign-up list to sign up for other events. Every other week we go there, so the more the merrier.”
Victoria Bell, a first-year and TUVAC member, heard about the event during orientation week and decided to sign up.
“I did arts and crafts with a bunch of the younger girls and it was really fun,” Bell said. “There was a bit of a language barrier because the majority of the girls only spoke Spanish. … besides that, it was such a great experience to be able to interact with those girls and just let them know that they’re loved and appreciated, you know? I thought that was really important.”
Bell said that she signed up with TUVAC for the next visit to the immigration center, on Sept. 22.
Students can contact Susanna Nieto at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the CSG emailing list; students interested in TUVAC volunteering opportunities can email email@example.com to receive TUVAC’s monthly newsletter. Future TUVAC events include volunteering to assist patients at the San Antonio State Hospital and helping with the upkeep of Headwaters, a local nature sanctuary.