By Courtney Bottazzi
Constantly, we see students at the University becoming involved with projects outside of the classroom and beyond their homework assignments.
Kenia Lobo ’15went on the B.A.C.E.S. trip to the Dominican Republic this past spring break. As a biology major, Lobo found this trip changed her entire perspective as a student on this campus.
After hearing about the trip during orientation, Lobo decided she wanted to do something productive with her spring break. She left for the Dominican Republic with 15 strangers and came back with a renewed energy and 15 close friends. “You need a certain mentality to be able to face it; you would never see that amount of poverty here. But we didn’t want to leave. We had so much chemistry as a group,” Lobo said.
They packed medical supplies, gave out toys and helped paint the school they had raised money to open, while simultaneously creating a lasting bond together.
“During the food drive, we made teams. I was on ‘The Sugar People.’ It was so silly and so much fun. We also got to go around to classrooms in pairs and the kids were amazing. They had a talent show where one student knew all the words to Justin Bieber songs,” Lobo said.
Phil Kim ’12, who also went on the B.A.C.E.S. trip, was able to participate in the progress of the school from the very first construction stages.
“Four years ago, I went on the second B.A.C.E.S. trip and got a chance to assist in building the walls to the schoolhouse that today teaches nearly 200 students in a poor community called Cabòn. It’s an absolutely incredible feeling to literally see the school build itself up each year–a feeling impossible to describe in words,” he said.
Kim found that in order to make these trips successes, he had to hone every skill that he will need upon graduation, including leadership, communication, organizational and networking skills. When asked if he has any advice for other students, Kim urged them to travel themselves.
“Do it … at least once before you graduate. It doesn’t have to be B.A.C.E.S., but there is something so selfless and real about going on a service trip that forces you to rethink how you think and how you live. It’s a beautiful experience,” Kim said.
Lebo Letsie ’12 created her own philanthropic project when she went home to Botswana for this past winter break. She sent out a Message Center request and a few emails to professors, asking if they had any extra clothes of growing children that they could give away.
“I was only expecting a few responses, but my email was flooded with responses,” Letsie said.
In the end, Letsie was able to donate two cars full of clothes to a small orphanage, La Modimo or ‘Light of God.’ Letsie was able to help make a safe environment for orphans and neglected children to go to and be with people who will take care of them.
“I loved being able to see both the giving and the receiving sides of this project. Something that’s so small to you can mean so much to someone else. I hope to help inspire other people to help but also to inspire the youth in Bostwana; to tell them to stay in school and stay focused and then they can continue to do this type of work,” Letsie said.
Letsie received a Projects of Peace grant of $10,000 that she will use to fund youth camps. These camps will be a place where young kids can learn about culture and leadership.
Danielle Alaimo ’12 has traveled to Nicaragua three times with the Bucknell Brigade and also fundraises at the Student Calling center. She says that these have changed her perspective of how she wanted to shape her college experience.
“After the Brigade trip my freshman year, it changed my perspective of community, how I wanted to connect with and communicate with other people. It changed how I wanted to spend my time here–-I found I had a lot of resources,” Alaimo said.
By working at Student Calling, Alaimo was able to talk with alumni from many different backgrounds and varying age groups about what they got from the University and what we should do while we are here.
“It was amazing to hear stories from alumni. Everyone should take advantage of Bucknell’s resources to challenge themselves and grow. Pay attention to the little mailbox notices or to Message Center, stop by the Civic Engagement office. Everyone can benefit from these projects–you just have to be open to it,” Alaimo said.
These philanthropic projects have made all the difference for students’ experiences on campus and have allowed them to give back beyond the “bubble.”