Daemen Volunteers Travel Thousands of Miles to Assist Ugandan Youngsters

January 24, 2014

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Paula Witherell
Director of Institutional Communication
Daemen College
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AMHERST, N.Y. -- After traveling nearly 7,000 miles back from Kyotera, Uganda, a volunteer group from the Daemen College community recently returned to Western New York inspired in knowing their international service learning trip had fostered a positive change in the lives of infants, young orphans, schoolchildren and others in this rural town across the world.

Daemen Students at the Equator Sign in UgandaThe six-member group, made up of Daemen faculty, students and alumni, embarked New Year’s Eve from Buffalo for the rare two-week opportunity to volunteer in the southern region of Uganda. While there, the ambitious team assisted the Bethlehem Parent School (BPS) and Orphanage, a safe-haven serving more than 600 children, including many orphans who depend on the school for education and their daily survival.

“Lacking resources, electricity and modern conveniences, it was apparent the school is in dire need of support,” said Justine Tutuska, department chair and assistant professor of health care studies, who organized the trip. “In addition to offering clothing donations and facilitating workshops on HIV/AIDS prevention and women’s health issues, we supplied several solar powered lamps that, after being charged in the sun during the day, can provide up to 10 hours of light. This gift of light will allow for evening reading, studying and outdoor safety during nighttime hours.”

The Uganda excursion marked the third international service learning trip for Daemen student Ashley Nesselbush of Springville, a senior health care studies major, who learned about the opportunity in Tutuska’s “Global Health” class.

“Taking time out of everyday life to give to others is so important for personal growth,” said Nesselbush, adding that she previously participated in trips to Ghana and Tanzania. “Volunteering abroad teaches me how to respect other cultures different from my own, increases my awareness of global issues and empowers me to create positive change in the communities I work in.”

Daemen Student working with Uganda ChildrenAlong with Tutuska and Nesselbush, Uganda trip participants included student Regina Mowry of Cheektowaga; alumni Christina Midy of Brooklyn and Christina Turner of Buffalo; and Michael Curtis, a representative of the International Association of Infant Massage and Infant Massage USA, who led a five-day infant massage certification workshop for nurses, educators and community leaders.

The Daemen group also worked side-by-side with members of the BPS community to lay bricks as part of a small expansion project at the girl’s dormitory, a hands-on effort that further connected the team with area residents.

“The success of this trip was based on the passion and strength of our team, the support of BPS and the commitment of Daemen to civic engagement and global citizenship,” said Tutuska, a South Buffalo resident. “Our students returned with a renewed sense of appreciation for what they have and lasting memories of helping others that will forever be held in their hearts.”

Nesselbush reaffirmed the enduring impact the winter break trip abroad will have on her both personally and professionally.

“Having life-changing experiences like this trip to Uganda are essential to my success as a student and as a future professional, making my Daemen education all the more valuable to me,” she said. “Daemen students are fortunate to have professors at the college who work hard to provide exceptional opportunities, like this international service learning project, to expand our learning experiences and educational settings well beyond the classroom.”

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