Coincidentally, yesterday's New York Times (Sunday, January 25, 2009) had an article on trips to the Caribbean, just as my daughter was heading out at 5:15AM with her 9th grade class from The Bement School, with a few teachers and coaches, to the Dominican Republic. The caravan of Bement School busses left Old Deerfield in sub-zero weather to JFK airport and JetBlue flew them all down to Santo Domingo. The service adventure has begun. The students have been preparing for this trip for weeks and had assembled suitcases filled with clothes, games, and toys for the children at the orphanage where they are now staying for the week to help out.
Planned activities at the orphanage include educational activities such as math exercises, assisting with building projects, and, most of all, sharing with those who have no families in face-to-face time, basketball and baseball games, and just showing that others care.
These kinds of experiences cannot be obtained through "virtual connectedness." The group of 9th grade "Bementers" includes children from Massachusetts and Vermont, plus boaders from China, South Korea, and Singapore. They will speak in the language of friendship, kindness, and play, and, hopefully, will engender memories that will last a lifetime.
Updated -- January 27, 2009: Today, The Recorder, a newspaper based in Greenfield, Massachusetts, ran an article on this service trip.