WFU students travel for holiday volunteerism

During the winter recess, nearly 50 Wake Forest University students will participate in international service trips.

For the first time, 12 Wake Forest students will volunteer in Can Tho Province in Vietnam during the holidays.

Senior Rachel Coley, this year's Calcutta student group leader, volunteered two years ago in Calcutta

Senior Rachel Coley, this year’s Calcutta student group leader, volunteered two years ago in Calcutta.

Other Wake Forest groups will travel to Calcutta, India; Agalta Valley, Honduras; and Mexico City. Students will work with the sick, poor and disabled; volunteer as tutors and mentors; and help with construction projects.

In 1994, a Wake Forest student dreamed of meeting Mother Teresa and working among her Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. She traveled alone to the City of Joy and spent a summer volunteering in children’s homes and homes for the disabled. Her experience was the foundation for annual Wake Forest service trips that now visit six locations worldwide – four during the winter recess and two during the summer months.

“The unique thing about all of Wake Forest’s service trips is that each one is student-initiated,” said Sally Sue Brown, assistant director of student development at Wake Forest. “In each case, one student has come forth with a vision of service for Wake Forest students. Two of our winter trips have a long history, and the other two are newer. Being the first group to go is very exciting.”

Each group will be accompanied by a faculty advisor and led by a returning student.

Senior Greg Casey volunteered in Mexico City last year. Casey will travel to Calcutta this year with the WFU service group.

Senior Greg Casey volunteered in Mexico City last year. Casey will travel to Calcutta this year with the WFU service group.

In Vietnam, the Wake Forest students will work with Peacework Ambassadors. The ambassadors are a division of Peacework Development Fund, a non-profit organization that arranges international volunteer service projects around the world for colleges, universities and service organizations. The group will leave Dec. 29 and return Jan. 12, in time for the start of spring semester classes.

The trip will include construction projects, a visit to a Nha Trang City sanatorium and rehabilitation hospital, and community development. Upon their return, students will share their experiences with the campus through chapel services and other reflection opportunities.

Eleven Wake Forest students will participate in the City of Joy Scholars program this year. The group will travel to Calcutta on Dec. 26 to volunteer with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and return Jan. 13.

While working at Prem Dan, a home for the physically and mentally disabled; Shishu Bhavan, a home for sick and abandoned children; Kalighat, a haven for the dying and destitute; and Nabo Jiban, which provides for tuberculosis patients, the students will feed disabled adults, bathe abandoned children and comfort the dying.

Eleven Wake Forest students will participate in the Honduras Outreach Project and Exchange (HOPE), begun in 1994 with the help of Honduras Outreach Inc., a private organization based in Decatur, Ga. The group will leave Jan. 2 and return Jan. 12.

The Agalta Valley is an extremely poor, undeveloped region. The average family income is $400 and there are no paved roads, plumbing and electricity services or medical infrastructure. The students will work to improve the quality of life there by assisting with construction projects.

Twelve Wake Forest students will participate in Casa de Caridad in Mexico City, departing Dec. 27 and returning Jan. 12. The first Wake Forest group visited Mexico City last year and worked with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

They will be working with orphaned and disabled infants, children, teenage girls and women at the Hogar de Allegre y Paz (Home of Peace and Happiness). To prepare for the trip, students have attended a fall retreat and weekly team meetings focusing on different aspects of the trip.

“Wake Forest is proud to provide an opportunity to act globally and help students to understand the challenges that face people in other parts of the world,” said Brown. “They reach the understanding that human needs are ever-present and become more reflective about their own life decisions upon returning to Wake Forest. The suffering of the people that they have helped on these service trips often makes their own problems seem very small.”

These trips are some of many sponsored in part by the Wake Forest Pro Humanitate Fund for Service-Learning in Action. The grant provides full coverage for the student and faculty leaders and helps to subsidize some of the costs for participating students. Students are encouraged to supplement the expense of the trip through charitable donations and sponsorships.

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