By Ruth Ann Vaughn, Kentuckania Chapter President
There are times that no words can describe the experience of walking through the slums of an African country or holding a child who has been orphaned by AIDS or has AIDS. “Hopeless” seems the most appropriate word. Yet in the middle of that hopelessness, a baby’s new smile who never knew happiness before being rescued from the trash pile or seeing children play with the simple “toys” (usually some kind of trash item) they own, will remind you why you have traveled such a long distance to be so humbled and serve those in need.
Our family traveled to Zambia this summer to do two things: enjoy sightseeing (a true vacation time for a week) and volunteer at the Christian Alliance for Children in Zambia orphanage for an additional three weeks. During our sightseeing time in Livingstone, we enjoyed being thoroughly soaked walking next to Victoria Falls, taking a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, riding on the backs of elephants for a short safari, and swinging across a gorge (similar to bungee jumping). Our time in Lusaka was filled with activities such as rocking, holding, feeding, and changing the diapers of sweet babies, playing with boisterous toddlers, teaching school-aged children how to make friendship bracelets or joining them in playing soccer, and watching the World Cup games with them. We also visited several schools (including an adult literacy school where I helped tutor a woman struggling with basic phonics), churches, and even the homes of women who make handbags out of recycled materials such as VHS tapes, plastic grocery sacks, and fabric scraps. My son also spent a few days creating a vegetable and flower garden out of a littered area for burning trash.
This was our second trip to Zambia, the first being in 2006, when we also traveled to Kenya. Our kids were 8 and 11 back then, so don’t think you can’t go with younger children. You can and should! You and your kids will learn and grow in ways you can’t imagine. I have become convinced that combining sightseeing and serving in one trip is truly the way to travel. I cannot stress enough how much our whole family has gained from serving people who we came to love dearly. I never dreamed during my college days at Virginia Tech that I would one day quickly see past all of the dirt, bugs, and lack of modern conveniences such as clean water and toilets. But, one thing I did then and dreamed of continuing for the rest of my days was to always make a difference in others’ lives and to pay it forward with whatever time, money, and skills that I had. Many people in my life have blessed me over the years (I probably never would have made it to college without them), and I want to give back in any way I can. In addition to sponsoring a child at the orphanage where we served, we are strongly considering providing the funds for a student to go to college next year (about $8,000 total for four years at the University of Zambia). If we were in a different stage of life, we’d adopt several of the children we rocked and hugged so much. But I encourage everyone who can adopt, to consider heading to Zambia. Go show that amazingly generous Hokie spirit and travel somewhere out of your comfort zone! Enjoy the sights, but don’t forget to serve. I promise that you will be rewarded in hugs and smiles for your time and efforts.
If you have a story related to “Ut Prosim” that you would like to share, please contact Josh Burnheimer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Anna Tobia, Assistant Director of Relay For Life at Virginia Tech
This past year, Virginia Tech's Relay For Life was once again the #1 collegiate relay in the nation raising over $578,000 in the fight against cancer. On Friday, April 9th, over 6,200 participants gathered on the Drillfield, the center of our campus, with one common goal-- to end cancer. The enthusiastic participants walked for hours, participated in various aerobic activities, listened to featured bands, fundraised, and most importantly, celebrated the lives of their local survivors. Relayers raised over $578,000, which will aid current research, patient support, and more. The efforts of this group caught the attention of many other collegiate relays around the world and continue to be at the pinnacle of Relay For Life development for other colleges.
The history of the Relay For Life at Virginia Tech began back in 2001, when it was a small fundraiser raising only a few thousand dollars. Since then, the event has grown to become the largest collegiate event in the nation and has raised over $2.5 million dollars in its short history. What’s even more fascinating is that this has been accomplished solely by leadership-oriented student volunteers.
Relay For Life is a unique fundraising event that allows participants from all walks of life — including students, faculty, staff, patients, civic organizations, faith-based groups, and community volunteers — to join together to fight cancer. Relay For Life opens as cancer survivors (anyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer) take the first lap. This emotional time sets the stage for the importance of each participant's contribution. A festive atmosphere always develops around the track area at Relay For Life events. As participants make new friends and spend time with old ones, the relay celebration and camp-out begins. Team members come together to celebrate, barbeque, play games, and walk the track for a great cause.
As dusk overtook our beautiful campus, participants lit thousands of luminaria around the track in an inspiring ceremony to honor cancer survivors as well as friends and family members who have died from the disease. The Relay For Life event represents hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported, and that one day cancer will be eliminated.
“Relay For Life is as much an awareness raiser about the progress against cancer as it is a fund raiser,” said Anna Tobia, Assistant Director of Relay For Life. Many of the participants will be people who have dealt with cancer themselves. Their involvement is proof of the progress that has been made in reducing cancer death rates and in the quality of life following cancer treatment. Relay For Life reminds us that progress has been made in the fight against cancer and that everyone who participates is making a difference.
Relay For Life at Virginia Tech 2011 is sure to be another incredibly successful year. More information about how to form a team or become involved in Relay For Life at Virginia Tech is available by visiting www.VTrelay.org or by e-mailing email@example.com.
By Karen Gilbert, Assistant Director of CSECP
An estimate of 90 area non-profits will participate in the VT-ENGAGE Volunteer Fair as part of Gobblerfest this year. All of our community partners are invited to have a booth at Gobblerfest and explain their mission to attendees for the purpose of recruiting volunteers. Gobblerfest serves as a welcome to new students and a time for our community to blend together to promote volunteerism and learn about services and businesses in our community--plus have FUN!
Gobblerfest, now in its third year, is a combined effort between Virginia Tech, University Unions & Student Activities (UUSA), the Town of Blacksburg, Downtown Blacksburg, Inc., the College Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center, VT-ENGAGE, and the Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships (CSECP). So far we have Foxridge and 105.3 The Bear radio station as major business partners supporting this event--we wish to thank them for their support! We are still seeking additional sponsors.
Gobblerfest will be held on Friday, August 27th, from 3:00 - 8:00 PM, to allow more community members to attend and participate (based on feedback from the community after last year's event). Music and entertainment will be provided until 8:00 PM for everyone to enjoy. There will be free inflatable games as well as games at booths. Alcohol-free, fun activities will continue late into the night for students in Squires Student Center.
VT-ENGAGE and CSECP at Virginia Tech are sponsoring the cost of the booth and one parking pass per booth for all non-profits. We value our community partners! If you are a member of or are aware of a non-profit that could benefit from participating in Gobblerfest, please help us spread the word.
Non-profits are encouraged to register early as registration is on a first come-first serve basis. The registration deadline is Friday, August 13, 2010 at 5:00 PM. You will find the details about participating on the Gobblerfest website at www.gobblerfest.org.
If you would like to be a sponsor for Gobblerfest or help as a volunteer, please contact Karen Gilbert, Coordinator of VT-ENGAGE, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you will join us for the third annual Gobblerfest and help us provide a warm Hokie welcome to campus and community to start the fall semester off right!
By Karen Gilbert, Assistant Director of CSECP
As part of a new “Seasons of Service” campaign sponsored by the Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships (CSECP) at Virginia Tech, we will have our first Fall Day of Service on October 2, 2010. We are coordinating with the Stop Hunger Now organization to hold a rice packaging event to benefit Haiti. We will pack an entire ship load container of rice and dried food to send to the earthquake survivors in Haiti where hunger remains a major challenge.
This event was proposed to CSECP by one of our community partners--Pastor Reggie Tuck of the Blacksburg United Methodist Church, who has single handedly taken on the task of fundraising. Pastor Tuck and the United Methodist Church are very involved in mission work in Haiti. He thought it would be a great idea to have students do service alongside community members and we wholeheartedly agreed! It will cost about $78,000 to hold this event and pay for supplies and shipping the container to Haiti. Sponsors are still needed.
About 2,000 volunteers will be needed for this service project. We will be packaging the rice in Commonwealth Ballroom from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 2nd. Everyone is welcome to participate. We are especially recruiting our first-year students to participate and have been working closely with Residence Life to involve them. We have a goal of involving at least 30 percent of the freshmen in this special service project. We will also utilize student leaders, such as those participating in SERVE, the themed housing focused on service, to lead this project. It takes 50 volunteers to serve as leaders for the project throughout the day.
You can register for this event starting in August on the VT-ENGAGE website. We invite you to participate if you will be in the Blacksburg area. We also encourage you to hold a similar Stop Hunger Now event in your own communities to help with hunger issues around the globe. For more information, contact Karen Gilbert, email@example.com.
For more information about Stop Hunger Now and its efforts to help Haiti, go to http://www.stophungernow.org/site/PageServer.
Ut Prosim Update is a joint publication between the Virginia Tech Alumni Association and the Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships to highlight alumni, student, and community service projects while encouraging partnerships across various constitutions.