Temple Times Online Edition
    FEBRUARY 10, 2005
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Team from Temple helps with development in Mexico

Photo courtesy John DiMino
John Pettit (left) and John DiMino (center), director of Tuttleman Counseling Services, were part of a group from Temple that traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, last month to help at a school construction site and assist the community in mitigating poverty.

The Office of Community Service supervised its first international service trip during the winter break, dispatching a team of 13 student volunteers and two administrators to Tijuana, Mexico, from Jan. 10 to 16 to assist local residents with community development.

Partnering with Los Niños, a service organization with a long history in Tijuana, the Temple group spent their days mixing concrete and hauling buckets at a school construction site. Since Tijuana grows by eight city blocks each day, new schools are always in demand.

In the evenings, they visited with community leaders and local groups that are working to mitigate the surrounding poverty.

“It’s hard to prepare for a trip like this because there are so many emotions evoked,” said Jason Riley, assistant director for community service. “Our students were surprised.

“They all came back with more questions than answers, but it was a very positive experience because it translated into a desire for them to want to learn more and raise awareness about the situation,” added Riley, who went on similar trips while in college and high school.

Before leaving for Mexico, Riley and John DiMino, director of Tuttleman Counseling Services, prepared students by talking to them about the North American Free Trade Agreement, U.S.-Mexican relations and Operation Gatekeeper, a 1994 federal initiative that stiffened defense of the Mexican border. While in Tijuana, the group visited areas that reflected those issues.

“We took them to a maquiladora, which is equivalent to a sweatshop,” Riley said. “They met with Enrique Morones, the founder of Border Angels, a group that provides blanket stations near the border, and they met with members of CITTAC, a group that tries to organize laborers in the free-trade zone.”

The Project Mexico team also stayed two nights at a home for Mexican men who were deported from the United States after 9/11. Students reported being most touched by the expansive, physical border that separates Mexican poverty from American opportunity.

Riley hopes the success of the first trip paves the way for subsequent service visits to Mexico. He would also like to offer a similar program for faculty and staff.

“The whole trip is not only physically demanding but emotionally demanding,” he said. “It’s an education.”

- By Ted Boscia