The Immersion Program is a collaborative effort between the Province of North America and the Latin American Region of the Christian Brothers. The Immersion Program started in 2006 aiming at supporting families living in extreme poverty in Peru and, offering a space for reflection and service to the members of the North American Schools Network, through a real experience of immersion with the most impoverished.
The first participants
The first participants in the Immersion Program were members of the Edmund Rice Schools Network from the United States and Canada: students, parents and staff volunteered to live this attractive experience which lasted one or two weeks. They were accompanied by Br. Stephen Casey.
The Hendricken House
Both the Province of North America and the Latin American Region allocated human, financial and technical resources to make this program possible. Brother Stephen Casey, representing the Province of North America and deceased Brother Pablo Keohane from the Latin America Region assumed the challenge. One of the Brothers’ communities in Lima, Las Flores community, was transformed into the Hendricken House, honoring the financial contribution made by Bishop Hendricken High School from Rhode Island, US.
Building ‘la casita’ (the prefab house)
During the immersion experience, each group has a precise task: to build a prefabricated house for a family living under extreme poverty on the hills of Canto Grande or Jicamarca, two neighborhoods hit hard by poverty in Lima.
Building a prefabricated house costs approximately 1,500 US dollars. Each immersion group organizes fundraising activities in their schools. Sometimes the immersion group also makes a small donation of school supplies or clothing for to the family.
Families who receive a prefabricated house are often single parents with 4 children on average. The minimum requirements are that each family should own the land and should contribute with labor work to the construction of the house.
After building the house, the brothers follow-up the family through visits, accompanying them to sometimes solve small difficulties related to the education of their children, health or sanitation.
The Immersion Program changes lives not only of families that begin to live in better conditions but also of the participants who experience life from another perspective.
The objective of the experience
An essential part of the immersion program is to have time to reflect on what is being done, each night the participants write in their diaries their reflections about the day. The participants have a personal time of reflection, there are group sharing and prayer in community.
“The hope are that the immersion experience awakens the social conscience of the students and deepens their commitment to do works of solidarity in their places of origin. The immersion experience is the beginning of something new in everyone’s life. Participants are invited to look for “the poorest” when they get home and continue to serve those most in need.” Br. Paul Keohane
Up to now, more than 100 immersion groups, and more than 1,000 students, parents and staff have lived this experience in Lima. The Immersion Experience is open to every school of the Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders network. Schools from: Argentina, Australia, Canada, United States and Uruguay have lived this experience so far. If your school wants to know more about the American Immersion Program, contact Br. Stephen Casey.