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Trip to exotic tourist destination proves eye-opener for recent grad

August 29, 2012 | Chase Replogle

“Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya …” was the tune in my head as I planned for a summer service trip to Aruba. I have gone on several of these trips before, so I understood that an exotic destination did not necessarily mean the trip would be all fun and games.

I went with my church, Evangel Temple, and Dr. Jean Orr, associate professor of psychology at Evangel University.

Having just graduated from EU with a concentration in psychology, the trip provided a unique opportunity for me to have a close-up view of Orr’s work. She was there to give seminars in the national social work office and the Teen Challenge Center. Her objective was to help them understand “compassion fatigue,” its causes and corresponding coping strategies.

Dr. Jean Orr

Dr. Jean Orr is a professor of psychology at Evangel University.

The first night, missionaries and Teen Challenge workers David and Christina Hunt told us about the tiny island inhabited by 100,000 people.

“We see Aruba with two eyes,” David says. “With one eye we see the vast beauty of the island, and with the other, we see that people here are hurting just as much as anywhere else.”

Christina explained how the island has big-city issues.

“Unfortunately, the successful tourism industry in Aruba has been a major contributor to easy access to hard drugs, gambling, legalized prostitution and human trafficking,” Christina says. “Arubans face a battle against life-controlling issues, which are breaking down families.”

We saw the challenges of the social workers who live in Aruba.

“The island is so small, and information and gossip spread fast,” Orr says. “Part of combating compassion fatigue is being able to talk to others about one’s stress, but the people will not do this unless they believe their thoughts and feelings are safe and confidential.”

On an island so gorgeous, one might think the natives “have it made.” I learned that’s simply not the case. They face challenges, too. I hope the good we accomplished will have ripple effects for a long, long time.

— Ana Pierce, 2012 graduate of Evangel University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, a concentration in Psychology and a French minor.