In July 2005, Maureen Little, coordinator of the Center for International Programs, traveled to Sri Lanka for three weeks as part of the Lasallian Immersion Program. Ms. Little reported back to campus on her personal experiences as part of a campuswide in-service day on August 15 devoted to the Lasallian mission. Excerpts from her address follow.
Staff and faculty are eligible to participate in the Lasallian Immersion Program, which is designed to provide a glimpse of the Lasallian mission and works worldwide. For more information about the program, contact the office of Carole Swain, Dean for Mission and Faculty Development.
Immersed in Sri Lanka
On June 15, 2005, I left for Sri Lanka on a journey of a lifetime. I have traveled extensively, however, my experience in poor and developing countries was limited. The other three participants who shared the Lasallian Immersion experience with me are teachers at Sacred Heart Prep High School in San Francisco, and we immediately connected with the shared vision of service and adventure. I don't know if I have the words to describe my time in Sri Lanka, and I'm still processing the experience.
While in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, at the Brother's community and our main site of Saint Xavier's School and De La Salle Hostel in Mannar, the evidence of the Lasallian mission was seen and felt everywhere. The Brothers, students and families were so appreciative that we were giving up part of our summer to be with them, in a place that few Westerners visited. We were at government schools that were run by the Christian Brothers, however, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim children all studied together. The Lasallian mission is inclusive of all of these religions and cultures.
Some of my fondest memories are of the time that I spent with the amazing boys both in and outside of the classroom. I started and ended each class teaching a song, figuring that if they didn't remember all of the nouns and adverbs they were being taught, they might better remember the songs.
Upon my return, I asked myself: What does De La Salle Hall at Saint Mary's College in Moraga and De La Salle Hostel at St. Xavier's School in Mannar, Sri Lanka, have in common? The answer is: I have spent 27 years working in De La Salle Hall at Saint Mary's College and 27 days working at De La Salle Hostel at in Mannar, where I had the opportunity to extend the Lasallian mission in the United States to the international Lasallian mission in Sri Lanka.
The Lasallian Immersion experience had a tremendous impact on me for the following reasons:
I had the opportunity to incorporate a global perception into a personal teaching experience, as well as obtaining an increased awareness of and renewed commitment to the Lasallian worldwide mission. In addition, I discovered new talents and perspectives about myself and their role in the Lasallian mission at home. Not only did I gain increased knowledge of an economically poor area that has been at a fragile peace for only three years, I knew that I was a part of the Lasallian international family that extends far beyond the United States.
I was given the opportunity to visit incredible places that I've read about, and hopefully touched the lives ever so briefly of members of our Lasallian international family. I know that they touched my life and left an indelible imprint on my heart. It was one of the most challenging and humbling experiences of my life, and I feel privileged to have been a participant.
The Office of Education of the District of San Francisco has coordinated the Lasallian Immersion Program in India and Sri Lanka since the summer of 1999. These month-long experiences provide educators with the opportunity to experience the Lasallian mission in developing countries, and also provide fundamental services to our brothers and sisters worldwide. Participants generally perform labors determined by the local school and under the guidance of a construction crew. Afternoons and evenings are spent with students helping them learn English.
I consider it a pleasure and a duty to share something of that extraordinary experience with others. Today, the Lasallian mission is popularly called a "shared" mission and we call participants members of the Lasallian family. Through this Lasallian family, we have a potential for significant service on a worldwide level that few bodies in education today possess.
-- Maureen Little