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Reflection on Camden Immersion Trip

Reflection on Camden Immersion Trip
By Joey Bunag ’25—

Camden, New Jersey. For many of us DMV residents, the name of this city probably means nothing, but for those familiar with the Philadelphia and New Jersey areas, this name most likely conjures images of crime and poverty. As a member of Campus Ministry’s Immersion Trip Program, I lived and served in Camden for five days, where I met the people who lived there, learned about the community and had all of my preconceived notions of Camden unraveled before my eyes.

We first arrived on Monday, June 3 at the Romero Center, which is where I lived for the week. The Romero Center is a retreat house where retreatants like myself stay while serving the wider Camden community. We were also joined by students from St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, who served the Camden community alongside us. There was a wide variance of service opportunities to be involved in, ranging from gardening work for a communal garden to assisting staff during class time and recess in a nearby elementary school. These service opportunities would last from the mornings to the afternoons, and in the evenings, we gathered with the St. Joseph’s Prep students for a communal reflection. During these reflections, we prayed, played Monopoly and reflected on the day’s service and how it related to Catholic Social Teaching. On the final day, each of us reflected on something that had been weighing us down during the week, something we would like to leave behind and something we would bring back to our communities with us after our experience in Camden.

For me, the most meaningful activities were volunteering at STARS Adult Medical Day Care Center and watching a documentary on the recent history of Camden. Playing card games, bingo, and having conversations with the elderly at STARS was fun, but, most importantly, it was fulfilling — it allowed me to connect with the people of Camden on a much deeper level, something that I had been looking for elsewhere in the trip. The documentary that we watched not only showed me the history of Camden, but it also showed me how the people there had used baseball to fight against the drug epidemic that had been taking over the city. Most importantly, the documentary showed me that the Camden community is healing, with drug and homicide related crimes being down compared to what they were 12 years ago. 

From the grueling gardening work and conversations with the elderly to bonding with my fellow classmates over UNO games, Camden was an experience that I will never forget. It taught me not only about the city or the people itself, but that the city is healing, a beautiful phenomenon that is possible for other places as well. Students who are interested in attending the Camden Immersion Trip must be juniors and can reach out to Campus Ministry for dates and deadlines on the immersion trip application.

 

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