International Vision Trips for Spring break canceled due to COVID-19 concerns

Humanitarian Engagement put "Canceled" post-it notes on the Morocco and Peru Vision Trip pamphlets hanging in the office. Tuesday, February 15, 2022. (Photo by: Megan Yoshioka)

Two Spring break Vision Trips have been canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to Sonya Reaves, Global Engagement coordinator for the Office of Ministry and Missions at Southern Adventist University.  In an interview with the Accent, Reaves explained what happened with this year’s Vision Trips.

“Originally at the start of the school year, we had five trips planned: three for Spring break and two for the summer,” she said.

 The Spring break Vision Trip locations were North Africa, Peru and Alaska, while the summer locations were Hawaii and Peru, Reaves said. She explained that the two international trips for Spring break had to be canceled. 

Those trips had to be canceled because the U.S. Department of State has labeled Peru and Morocco with safety tier Level Four, according to Reaves. International safety is measured on a four-tier scale, with Level One indicating little to no danger and Level Four indicating high risk. Level Four can be designated for a variety of reasons, including security risk, unrest and terrorism. But in this situation, it was given because of COVID-19, Reaves said.  

During the Vision Trip training class on January 16, Peru was at Level Three. But the next week, the country saw a spike in cases, resulting in a Level Four, according to Reaves. 

“So then, we decided in good stewardship to not purchase tickets with the hope that it would come down because … that’s a big risk that you could lose those tickets as well as it’s not fair to students to have a hope,” Reaves said.

In January, Morocco was already at Level Four, but they decided not to take a risk by purchasing tickets, Reaves said. 

“So, unfortunately for these students, we’re not sending them [to Morocco],” Reaves said. “But they have several options. They could join the Alaska trip. … They could just transfer all their funds straight over and join that trip. They could pause; and next year, they can go on a trip. Or, they could join a summer trip, because we will hold their fundraising money … until they can go.” 

Reaves added that students could also use their fundraised money for a Student Missions trip or an ERC mission trip since those two departments work together along with Vision Trips. 

Lilly Cheneweth, junior biology major with a biomedical emphasis, was set to go on the Spring break mission trip to Peru, but her plans changed when the trip was canceled. In an interview with the Accent, Cheneweth shared her reaction to the cancelation of the Peru trip. 

“I wasn’t surprised,” Cheneweth said. “ I was honestly more surprised that they were continuing to say that we were going on the trip for as long as they did.” 

Cheneweth said that Peru had remained on Level Three for a long time.  

After the trip to Peru was canceled, Cheneweth decided to go on the Alaska Vision Trip instead. 

“We were looking at different options,” Cheneweth said. “But ultimately, we wanted to go on a mission trip; we wanted to help serve. I was really thankful that they let us join the trip as late as we did.”  

Though Cheneweth was hoping to get more health care experience in Peru and help people in that way, she said that she is glad to help in any way she can.  

“I think this is a really great opportunity for students,” Cheneweth said. “All you really have to do is sign up. It doesn’t matter what major you’re in … the skill level … you can just show up and you can help. No matter if you think you can or not, you can. … And that’s a rewarding feeling.”

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