Service Trips and Experiences

Experiencing the City

Aquinas Center creates customized urban immersion experiences for high school, college, and adult visitors that involve:

  • Space for up to 40 guests with off street parking and meal prep facilities
  • Meaningful volunteer projects that balances interaction with people (tutoring, recreation, literacy, etc.) and demonstrated impact (community gardening, packing food, painting, etc.);
  • Neighborhood tours coordinated by local teens;
  • Dialogue with community residents;
  • Educational presentations; and,
  • Guided reflection around faith and justice topics

These all take place within the context of a community that is continually shaped by immigration and migration. Groups have come from as far away as Arizona and as close as suburban Philadelphia. Some are faith based, others are not. Aquinas Center is committed to creating mutually rewarding experiences that are driven by the goals of the local community. Hospitality is the starting point. Kinship, as described by Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, is the destination!

Contact our Encounter Coordinator at (267) 702-3454 or Encounter [@] to discuss calendar availability, schedule, pricing, and other details. Please note, we do not offer Saturday to Sunday overnights because of the robust parish life activities that occupy the center from 5PM Saturday to 3PM Sunday.  Examples of programming are outlined below:

Activities that Foster Understanding and Encounter

Cultural Meal – $20 per person

Do you know where Eritrea is? By the end of this meal, students will gain basic knowledge of the East African country of Eritrea, particularly that they cook delicious food. This cultural dinner will allow students to experience authentic Eritrean cuisine as they learn the customs of how to eat communally and without silverware. This experience is not only tasty, but also pushes students outside of their comfort zone by exposing them to a new customs in a welcoming environment. We encourage dialogue on culture, customs, and/or how food affects community to follow the dinner.

Neighborhood Tour with Youth Voices – $150 (90 minutes)

Pat’s and Geno’s are not part of the Aquinas South Philly tour. This tour skips the tourist spots in favor of more personal insights by having students view our community through the eyes of a local teen. Students are challenged to explore the neighborhood with particularly observant eyes by participating in an urban scavenger hunt with Youth Voices (group of local teens) serving as their guides. Students are encouraged to dialogue with the Youth Voices on any topic from their favorite hang out spot to the joys and challenges of living in an urban environment. Students should leave the experience feeling more comfortable in urban environments, with a better understanding of the diversity within South Philadelphia, and maybe even some new street smarts.

Topical Speakers = $100 per session (30 minute presentation, 30 minute facilitated dialogue)

  • Understanding Cultural humility and intercultural competency
  • Welcoming the Stranger: Current trends in migration
  • U.S. Immigration Policy and the Need for Reform
  • Beyond Food Stamps: Understanding social welfare and the U.S. safety net
  • Education Access for New Arrivals (Education and Immigration Justice issues)
  • Affordable Housing and Redevelopment Pressure
  • Don’t Eat Like Americans: Reinforcing cultural food values through gardening and shared meals
  • Shifting the Service Paradigm: Fostering a culture of encounter

Migration Simulation  = $100-$250 depending on size of group

In this activity students will experience the dangerous journey youth make every day when crossing the US-Mexico border. This simulation provides an identity the students will take on as they make this journey, providing both an experiential learning and personal component. The migration process is unpacked in this activity that sheds light on what can be a sensitive subject. Dialogue and reflection on immigration is strongly encouraged to follow simulation.Optional: follow up simulation with “Why Do They Come?” presentation and discussion OR clips from Which Way Home film and discussion.

My Journey to America speaker and dinner – $50/speaker + $15/plate

Fellowship over a shared meal and hear from an exceptional young adult in our community. The presenter will choose a dish reflective of his/her culture and he/she will share their story of how their family came to America. Students will hear from one of our teens share a bit about their native country, how and why they came to America, and what life has been like since in their own words. Discussion and Q&A to follow presentation.

Beautiful Walls: Reclaiming Urban Space Through Mural Making – $200 (30 minute presentation, 45 minute walk in community)

The deleterious effects of outward migration and disinvestment on American cities are well documented, yet there is evidence that the departure of some creates opportunity for others. Blighted areas with affordable housing and proximity to service sector employment can attract immigrants and foster conditions conducive to refugee resettlement. This experiential talk and tour invites guests to see first hand how schools and organizations might help intercultural communities reclaim marginalized urban spaces by co-creating murals that: (1) unite diverse communities in shared “ownership” of space; (2) illuminate the tenuous nature of the precariat; and (3) amplify voices of the disenfranchised. (Facilitated by Aquinas Center director, Bethany Welch)

2013-08-01 21.36.59  SJP #1

Meeting and Program Space

Aquinas Center has some daytime and evening availability for community meetings, workshops, and stand alone events. To see a list of the spaces, seating capacity, and facility details, please contact our Encounter Coordinator at (267) 702-3454 or Encounter [@]