Annual jaunt offers Canadians
By Tony Gosgnach
a Third World view
For 21 years, a now-retired religion teacher from Mississauga, Ont.
has been taking young people and adults to Third World countries not
only to expose Canadians to the poverty afflicting people elsewhere
in the world, but also to help promote a broader meaning of the term
"I see a connection between children in difficult Third World circumstances
and what being a pro-life person is about," says Stella Petrone. "It's
not just being anti-abortion. It's much bigger than that. If we believe
a baby ought to have life, we ought to go a further step and ask ourselves
how we can make ourselves knowledgeable about how children live in the
expeditions - called the Haitian Experience when they take place to
the nation of Haiti, and the Annual Third World Experience when they
take place elsewhere - started in 1984 as a result of questioning by
her students about whether she herself had made a trip to the Third
"I got a sense that some students would want to come. So the following
day, I made them an offer. I said, 'If you're game, I'll take you.'"
For the first decade or so, the trips took place during March Break,
but this year's expedition is scheduled for June 29 - July 6. When in
Haiti, the volunteers assist religious sisters of Mother Teresa's order
in running a nutrition centre for babies, mainly by offering feeding
services to infants who otherwise would die from malnutrition. Participants
also visit and entertain at homes for disabled children.
In the Dominican Republic, volunteers tend to Haitians who work in
the sugar cane fields. These labourers usually make just $1.20 (Cdn)
for a 12 to 16-hour day that stretches into a six-day week.
"You're looking at modern-day slavery, that's what it is," says Petrone.
"They live on the cane fields, including the children. We spend most
of the time with the children."
Third World Experience participants this year will be offering a summer
camp-style program to children on the sugar cane fields in the Dominican
Republic, because the young ones can't leave those locations. It will
involve bringing in toys, balls, arts, crafts and the like, in an effort
to offer some fun and a change of pace from the often-punishing work
and dreary lifestyle.
Although the emphasis is on exposing Canadian young people to Third
World conditions, Petrone's expeditions usually consist of about 30
per cent adults. Participants are responsible for coming up with their
own funding, which this year will require $1,100 from everyone who wishes
to go. The tab includes airfare, meals and accommodations at a residential
teachers' college. Participants do not engage in the manual labour of
cutting sugar canes, nor do they sleep in the fields with the local
"I've taken some as young as nine, but they came with their mothers,"
laughs Petrone. "I've also taken some entire families of four or five
people." She adds that there is a particular need for male participants
this year, as the largely male sugar cane workers feel more comfortable
with confreres of the same sex.
Petrone encourages Interim readers to participate in this year's expedition,
think about adopting a child from the Third World or donate to either
the cane cutters in the Dominican Republic or the religious sisters
in Haiti. She can be reached for more information by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The only difference between abortion and not caring about a Third
World baby or child is that abortion kills the baby instantly, while
apathy kills a child or baby within five or six years," says Petrone.
"They're going to die in both cases. I see apathy as being abortive."