While many students parked themselves on a warm beach over Spring Break, a group of 11 undergraduate students and two professors from Roger Williams University bucked the trend last spring, traveling instead to the Central American metropolis of San Salvador. Challenging the traditional notion of a spring vacation, the group visited El Salvador’s capital city where they spent a week volunteering in a clinic for the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC).
Teaming with St. Elizabeth’s Church in Bristol, R.I., to raise supplies for their trip, the volunteer group focused on the Las Delicias community, where they arrived with 15 large suitcases filled with medical donations and supplies from toothpaste, toothbrushes and over-the-counter medicines to ointments, vitamins, baby supplies and more.
Delia Clifford ’12, who served as secretary of RWU’s FIMRC chapter while a student, appealed to community organizations for aid in collecting donations. During her outreach, she connected with Father Jared Costanza and Director Robert Ferri at St. Elizabeth’s, who helped facilitate a fundraiser with the University-led FIMRC group.
“This was exactly the service-learning experience we wanted for our youth,” Ferri says. “Our eighth-graders usually hold dinner fundraisers as part of their required community work for confirmation, but this was a different, more tangible experience for them.”
Leading their own efforts, the eighth-graders organized their own donation drive over a three-week period last February. They made flyers, directly solicited financial contributions and collected supplies for donation. In addition, Father Costanza invited the RWU students to attend mass, where they shared with the congragation the importance of their efforts to the sustenance of the Las Delicias clinic, which is survives on donations.
In just three weeks the confirmation class collected 1,836 items and $450 in cash donations, which they used to purchase a baby scale. The funds also supported the construction of a hygiene station next to the clinic.
“The congregation welcomed us with a great commitment to helping our cause,” Clifford says, expressing her gratitude to the church and confirmation students.
Inspired by the enthusiasm of the confirmation class, the FIMRC club and St. Elizabeth’s Church hope to continue their partnership in the future.
“This was a valuable experience for the eighth graders to feel a real connection with service-learning,” Ferri says. “They were able to see real results in the moment and the impact of their work.”
To learn more about the FIMRC club’s work in El Salvador, check out Assistant Professor Autumn Quezada-Grant’s travel blog at http://otonomoon.wordpress.com/