In addition to academics, the Honors College at West Chester University places priority on personal leadership development and civic engagement.
A prime example is the ongoing commitment to the children of South Africa, strongly supported by former President Madeleine Wing Adler. Since 1998, Honors Director Kevin Dean has paved the way and subsequently organized three teams of WCU students, faculty, and staff to travel to South Africa to participate in community-needs assessment projects that have profoundly impacted lives on both sides of the ocean. Plans for a seventh trip to South Africa in Spring 2014 are underway!
Through the graciousness of a leadership grant I received from the Kellogg Foundation, in March of 1997, I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa. In countless ways, South Africa became a ’trip of a lifetime,’ or so I thought. Little could I have imaged that the people met, places seen, causes served or lessons learned would have become such a central part of my professional and personal life.
The seeds of that initial experience have flowered into the development of a course that has reached over 250 WCU students, established Deon’s International Shoe Fund that has helped raise Africa and America through the internet and visits to campus from South Africa leaders, and enriched the service activities sponsored annually by Honors Student Association by focusing on the ability of students to apply lessons learned internationally to communities in West Chester region.
The students who traveled to South Africa were also frequent spectators to the harsh reality of the widespread AIDS epidemic. Students performed community needs and assessments of children affected by AIDS. All of the children in Sparrow Village Orphanage have AIDS. The eye-opening, heartbreaking, and inspiring moments that each child felt in South Africa contributed to the drive behind the Aid to South Africa event.
It is with pleasure that I and devoted group of WCU faculty and Honors Program students who are ’alumni’ of South Africa experiences have begun work for our sixth student/faculty research/service project to South Africa in spring of 2012. I am confident that this experience will open additional doors to unanticipated opportunities for all participants.
The funds raised at the Aid to South Africa Event go directly towards the H. E. L. P. Ministry Soup Kitchen, Nikosi’s Haven and the Sparrow Village AIDS Orphanage. West Chester students who have gone to the soup kitchen have been touched and shocked by the incredible work these people have done. Every day 5,000 children are provided with a cup of soup and a slice of bread. For most of these children it will be their only meal of the day.
Most recently, the students who went to South Africa in 2012, were also frequent spectators to the harsh realities of the widespread AIDS epidemic. The eye-opening, heart-breaking, and inspiring moments that each student felt in South Africa through interaction with a grandmother caring for a sick child,an orphaned pre-teen caring for siblings, and a community member who opened a two room dwelling to six or more unrelated children who would otherwise literally live in the street, contributes to our passion and drive behind the Aid to South Africa event.