International Poverty: A TRIPS Story

marisa.strothenkeSenior Marisa Strothenke isn’t afraid to admit that preparing for her trip to St. Lucia, West Indies was a little bit scary. Although Marisa has been a part of the TRIPS program at St. Norbert College since her sophomore year, participating in both the Poverty and Homelessness trip to Washington D.C. and the Affordable Housing trip to Little Rock, Arkansas, she wasn’t exactly sure what to expect this time around. She explains, “Trying to lead a group of students to a foreign country that you have never been to is really intimidating.”

Luckily for Marisa, she was able to find comfort in the  partner organization she was traveling with. She claims that Good News Project, who helped her prepare for the trip before her departure, treated her and her TRIPS group like family. “They were truly there for us,” she emphasizes. Marisa also credits her TRIPS group for being positive through all of the concerns they faced. She says, “They walked with me every step of the way and had my back through everything.”

Of course, one has to wonder what exactly motivates a person to take on such a challenging role? For Marisa, the answer is simple. She states, “During my time at St. Norbert I have learned a lot about the issues of poverty within the United States, but not as much with International issues. I wanted to expand my understanding of these issues and really see the similarities and differences across country lines.”

During her trip to St. Lucia, Marisa was able to witness international poverty first hand, but it was the similarities between poverty in St. Lucia and in the United States that really struck her.  “I came out realizing that it doesn’t matter where you go, poverty exists everywhere and affects everyone.” Marisa elaborates further by saying, “We are a part of a much larger family than what we might realize. Whether we are serving in our hometown or in another county we are helping our brothers and sisters and working towards a more just world.”

Reflecting on her trip to St. Lucia, Marisa fondly remembers a day well spent with her TRIPS group who were helping to construct a house.  “It rained the entire day. We were slipping on mud, eating soggy sandwiches, and laughing the entire time,” she says. Despite this, her group remained determined to get as much work as they could done. Each person had their own job to do, and at the end of the day they had four walls and most of a roof put together. “The progress we were able to make in one day was incredible” Marisa states.

The number one thing Marisa claims she learned during her trip to St. Lucia is that there are two ways you can go about fighting issues of poverty and injustice: “you can look to the future and work to create systemic change so future generations will not have these issues, or you can work with the people dealing with these issues right now and help them get through it.  We realized that you cannot choose only one of these, you have to do both.”

Although her time in St. Lucia seemed too short and saying goodbye to the wonderful people she met while there was hard, Marisa says that her experiences through TRIPS have changed the way she sees the world and continues to shape her future. She also encourages other students to get involved with the program, emphasizing “being a part of TRIPS has been hands-down one of the best parts of my college career. The experiences that you will have and the things that you will learn — about yourself as well as various social justice issues — are incredibly eye opening and worthwhile.”

For more information about upcoming TRIPS and how to get involved with the program you can visit their website. TRIPS will also be hosting their 2nd Annual Trivia Night on March 4th at Brickhouse Craft Burgers and Brews. Groups will compete against each other in teams of 2-6 players to help raise money for the organization. The registration fee is $8 a person and space is limited, so sign up today by clicking here.

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