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Elms College graduates serve the poor in Jamaica

CHICOPEE — Twenty-one-year-old Krystyna K. Starsiak cites her Catholic faith as the reason she decided to dedicate a year of her life to service.

‘‘It is my way to give back and thank God for all the wonderful blessings I have received in my life,’’ said the 2013 graduate of Elms College who had a double major in elementary education and history.

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The Chicopee woman left Monday for a year of service in Jamaica with Passionist Volunteers International. The service group, established by the Catholic congregation of Passionists, is based in Jamaica, N.Y.

It is under the direction of the Rev. Lucian Clark, who previously was in charge of the former Passionist seminary in West Springfield. The volunteers work with the rural poor in Jamaica as well as those in Talanga, Honduras. Volunteers commit to one or two years of international service.

Starsiak said volunteers work in places like a home for troubled boys, area schools, mountain villages, health clinics, and mission churches.

Kaylie E. Dygon, 21, a classmate from Chicopee who graduated from Elms with a degree in nursing, is also joining the volunteers.

Dygon will be working in clinics, doing home visits with the ill and disabled, and children, working in schools and helping at other work sites.

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‘‘This program is very focused on ‘walking with the people,’ which means not just giving gifts or money, but giving yourself, which I feel is more valuable than any gift that could be given,’’ Dygon said.

Lindsay M. Papsin, 23, a 2012 Elms graduate from Shelton, Conn., is currently part of the Passionist Volunteers International; she is entering her second yearlong commitment.

Papsin, who is currently in Jamaica, participated in two Elms service trips with the group and has worked with children and made home visits.

‘‘After my first trip to Jamaica with Elms, I could not stop thinking about the beauty of the people I had met there and wishing I could have more time with them,’’ she said.

The more she thought about it, the more she wanted to apply.

‘‘It just felt right that before I settled into a life for myself after college, I would try to be a part of something bigger than myself,’’ Papsin said.

Volunteering, Starsiak said, isn’t about the position one holds, it’s about accepting a new way of life.

‘‘It’s helping others to accomplish what you know is important to them, and the goal, in turn, being important to you. It’s in knowing the work of doing what you feel is right is never done. It’s rarely easy. And it’s always worth it.’’

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