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In November, you can see Puerto Rico up close via Travel Study Seminar


Presbyterian Peacemaking Program leading trips to Puerto Rico, Central America and East Asia

By Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

A cross and amphitheater overlook Campamento El Guacio in western Puerto Rico. A November Travel Study Seminar will visit the camp, which has been a hurricane recovery center for its community, and participate in a work project there. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LOUISVILLE — For the first time in recent years, the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is hosting one of its Travel Study Seminars in the United States, focusing on a place that’s been in the headlines for a variety of reasons.

The Nov. 11-18 trip will be to Puerto Rico, the United States territory still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria and often discussed, along with Washington, D.C., as a possible 51st or 52nd state. It is one of three upcoming Travel Study Seminars being presented by Peacemaking.

“The idea of the travel study seminars is to be intersectional,” says Carl Horton, coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. “Puerto Rico emerged as a place where we see a lot of intersectionality with policy, disaster response, Puerto Rican rights, human rights, hunger, development and the legacy of colonialism.”

The travel study seminar will take participants from the capital in San Juan into the island visiting all three presbyteries in the Synod of Boriquén, hearing from long-term recovery participants, public policy advocates, and people engaged in development. Travelers will also participate in a work project at Campamento El Guacio, which is much like many mainland Presbyterian summer camps, and enjoy the island’s tropical beauty, just as the November chill is starting to take hold on the mainland.

Among the places participants in the November Travel Study Seminar in Puerto Rico will visit is El Fideicomiso de la Tierra Caño Martín Peña, a program working to help develop the area surrounding the Martín Peña canal. (Photo by Rich Copley)

Horton says the study seminar will explore recovery from the 2017 hurricane, widely regarded as the worst natural disaster to hit the island, as well as how the storm’s impact has exacerbated longstanding issues such as food insecurity, structural racism, infrastructure challenges, and an unjust debt burden.

Since Maria struck, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been very active in recovery efforts, particularly through the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program and the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People.

The Peacemaking Program’s Travel Study Seminars have usually been outside the United States.

“It came to our attention that a lot of the issues we want to explore with our worldwide partners are here in the U.S.,” Horton says. “These offer a shorter experience and people don’t have to travel internationally.”

Horton says Peacemaking is looking at the possibility of other domestic Study Seminars focused on issues such as Native American lands, immigration, poverty, and water security.

Get out your passports

But the program is continuing international journeys as well. Two are on tap for 2020, both exploring the issue of migration.

“We are going to be looking at two different contexts of migration, globally, where we have mission personnel and partners,” Horton says.

A February 2020 Travel Study Seminar will visit three Central American countries — El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras — from which tens of thousands of migrants are coming to the United States.

Feb. 17 to 28, participants will travel to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to see where many migrants to the United States are coming from. The seminar aims to show why people are clamoring to leave these countries, usually embarking on long and dangerous journeys across Mexico, and the impact of U.S. policies such as mass deportation.

Beneath the glitter of Hong Kong there is a community of Filipino and Indonesian migrant workers participants in a May 2020 Travel Study Seminar will learn about. (Photo by Stephanie Jones)

May 1 to 15, a group will travel to the Philippines and Hong Kong. The East Asian situation is less familiar to most Americans than the circumstance to our south, but unemployment, social unrest, and violence have prompted thousands of Filipinos to seek work outside of the country. The Philippines is the third-largest country in the world receiving remittances — money sent home from citizens working abroad. The Travel Study Seminar will look at both sides of the issue, visiting struggling communities in the Philippines and communities of Filipino workers in Hong Kong, where the majority of domestic workers come from the Philippines and Indonesia.

Registration is currently open for all of these trips, and more details can be found by clicking the trip links above or below:

Puerto Rico

El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras

Philippines and Hong Kong

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