Ten Suffolk University students traveled to El Salvador recently to learn about the late Massachusetts Congressman John Joseph Moakley’s statesmanship in the midst of civil war and to volunteer their services at humanitarian aid agencies.

The trip formed the core of a Government Department course and was coordinated with the Moakley Institute at Suffolk University.

The student delegation met with Salvadoran government officials and visited key locations related to Moakley’s Congressional investigation of the 1989 Jesuit murders in San Salvador. Moakley's findings about U.S. involvement lead to the end of the Salvadoran civil war.

Oral history

They heard firsthand accounts of the Salvadoran civil war along the way. One guesthouse owner told the story of how he had come to join the resistance and of his treatment when he was captured three separate times.

“This was an amazing trip and a great experience for everyone involved,” said Professor Judy Dushku, who taught the course, “Congressman Moakley and the Search for Justice in El Salvador. “To me, there’s nothing like students going to a place such as El Salvador and learning firsthand about the people and the culture of a different country. The students really absorbed what they saw and drew conclusions that were both astonishing and sophisticated in their analysis.”

Moakley Institute Director Beth Bower arranged the trip through Companion Community Development Alternatives (CoCoDA), a non-profit organization involved in projects for democratic, community-based, social and economic development in Central America.

Service learning

Moakley, a Suffolk Law School graduate, had befriended the people of Santa Marta, a village that had to be evacuated as it came under fire from the Slavadoran government during the war.

Suffolk’s Organizations for Uplifting Lives through Service (S.O.U.L.S) and the Suffolk University Hispanic Association have continued that friendship, raising funds so that students from the village of Santa Marta can attend the university in San Salvador. The two groups of students met and spent time together during the Salvadoran visit.
“To travel through El Salvador and have the opportunity to communicate with people there was very valuable to me,” said Tom Remp, a freshman majoring in international relations who hails from Scotland. “It is experiences like this that shape who you are and definitely stay with you forever.”