Meg Daniels is a sophomore at Seton Hall University in the Speech Pathology program, studying Early/Special Education. Over a recent break from school, she had the incredible opportunity to go on a mission trip to Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. While there, she was able to interact closely with the people, especially with the children and young people.
As an Early/Special Education major, Daniels loves learning about how children learn and finding new certain strategies to work with young brains. Her passion for God and faith, along with her experience with children and their development, made her a fantastic asset to the mission trip.
Megan Batt: How did you get involved with this mission trip?
Meg Daniels: I signed up for a trip to El Salvador through my school but the mandatory meeting times were conflicting with another meeting, so I decided to drop the trip. I then went to church at Seton Hall, got the bulletin and found a mission trip to Puerto Rico. It was a trip for college student athletes, but I am not an athlete. I asked if it was an issue, but they said they would be more than happy to have me on the trip!
MB: How many individuals went on the trip?
MD: There were 20 of us total. 14 college students, four missionaries, a priest and a deacon. 6 of us were from Seton Hall and the rest of the students were from all over the country. It was great to hear from so many people who participated in many different sports like basketball, volleyball, baseball, soccer, and cross-country. And then there was me. I was the only non-athlete, but I was just so excited to be there.
We stayed in a renovated convent in the middle of Mayagüez. The hotel was called Hotel Colonial and it had cement walls and tiny rooms filled with color. The walls were thin enough that we could hear the Coqui frogs outside.
We could also hear the sounds of the city at night. Down the block during the whole week, there was a festival in celebration of Christmas, and in anticipation for the Three Kings. (They don’t have a Santa, they believe that the Magi bring gifts a week later.) We could hear the lively music and chatter from our rooms.
MB: How would you compare life here in the states and your college life to what you saw and experienced on your trip?
MD: I would say that the way of life is definitely different from where I grew up and where I went to school. I think there are places like this in the United States but I haven’t been there.
One of the first thing I noticed about the people was their amazing hospitality. The deacon of the church had a family who were all parishioners of the church, and they offered to make us breakfast, lunch, and dinner (with a small desert with each meal) for every day we were there. They had to be so considerate of our food because Americans can get very sick from meat in other countries, or even just from the drinking water. So they purchased special meat, purchased water bottles and cooked for 20 people. Also, most of these people were male student athletes who ate like animals.
The same family offered to have us at their house for New Year’s. These people lived in a small single-story house, but they were willing to have 20 people visit their home to celebrate New Year’s and their father’s birthday. We were so grafteful for their hospitality and we always assured them that we had a wonderful time. This hospitality, this unwavering determination to help people at all times and to make sure they are happy is a fact of life in Mayagüez that I have not experienced anywhere in the US.
The general look of Mayagüez was colorful and minimalist. The houses had just enough room for everyone in the family to live in and really not much else. Here we have basements, foyers, a living room and a dining room but they have just as much space as they need. There were no front yards on the houses.
Their houses go right up to the sidewalk or the edge of the street and there are fenced in porches where people had guard dogs. We saw lots of them when we would go for walks around the town in the morning. We would see rows and rows of colorful houses and beautiful murals and dogs behind fences, chickens running around, and horses in fields and tied to posts. It was the most colorful place I have ever been! Everywhere you looked there was more and more to see. All that you saw was evident of their culture.
MB: What was the purpose or objectives of this mission trip?
MD: This trip was a catholic mission trip through the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). we went to go to Puerto Rico to bring faith, sports, and fun. The main part of this trip was showing the young people a group of faith-filled university students and modeling how to have a relationship with God in college. We were there also to teach the children sports. We had a baseball camp in the morning on the field and a volleyball camp in the afternoon in the Boys and Girls club recreational gym. This was a very beneficial experience for me; I learned how to throw a baseball correctly and also how to connect with young people despite the language difference.
MB: How do you think this trip impacted the people you met there?
MD: I think this trip has greatly impacted the people in Mayagüez. Over the course of the trip we brought them fun, some sports, and examples of faith.
After the trip one of the local teens, Barbara, contacted me and left me this message on Facebook, “Hi Meg I hope you’re super good, I just wanted to remind you that here on this little island being so big you have a new friend of heart and family of another blood. Haha I am very grateful but in these six years that I joined the group of missionaries I always felt the love of all but this year I was shocked because I was not so invisible and I felt more than loved that in all the years. They have taken a big piece of my heart and I will always be praying for everyone. Never give up on any obstacle, hugs!”
Another message of hers reads, “Just never forget, I asked for a lot of happiness and when I met them all, I understood that they had got it for me now, I just think and smile”
MB: Can you describe a moment or two that specifically stick out in your mind when you think about the trip?
MD: One night we were able to go to a festival in the town square. There was live music and the locals taught us the basic steps of Bachata and Salsa. We had so much fun dancing. We kept asking for encores and more opportunities to show off our dance moves. Lots of people were filming us on our phones; they thought it was funny that so many tall white people were trying to dance like them. This was the most fun I had had on the whole trip. There was so much energy there and excitement! I also loved that I got to dance. I am better at dancing than I am at sports so it was fun to do something I am good at.
The other best moment was when we went to the beach at the end of the trip in Playa Buyé and the water was so clear. There were no waves either so the water was calm enough to play catch, which is so fun when you get to swim around. We then decided to go on a walk down the beach. As we were walking, the crowd of people got smaller and smaller until it was just our group walking along the water. The sand got smaller and smaller so we eventually had to walk in the water.
Once we reached a cove where there was a quiet little area where we were able to sit down and enjoy the view. We were all chatting and talking about the view. Then the priest on the trip, Father Athanasius, asked for us to have five minutes of silence to appreciate the little things that God makes for us to enjoy. God created the world and the fact that He brought us together in a new place to bring happiness and faith to people was an amazing experience. We got to revel in that while sitting in the water on the beach in Puerto Rico.