Shenandoah students spend break helping others

Liz Levey, ‘Doah Staff Writer
January 15, 2014

'Doah photo courtesy of Liz Luttner
‘Doah photo courtesy of Liz Luttner

While most students left S.U. in December with thoughts of relaxation and sleep in their heads, some students took time out of their winter break to help others in need around the world and right here at home. Truly encompassing the time of year by serving others during the holiday season.

Brittani Dodson, a junior nursing major, went to Panama from December 13 through the 21

to help with a new orphanage, “Casa Providencia” which is the first orphanage in Panama for children with special needs. While there she also went to local orphanages to play with other children. “I wanted to give them as much love and support I could possibly give.”

Dodson first got a taste of Panama in March 2013, with the Global Citizenship Project. While she was there, they met up with a woman who moved from New Jersey to Panama to work in schools for children who lived in the poorest part of the country. This woman was who inspired a few students to return and visit the school and help out. “Myself, along with two other girls who went on GCP with me, stayed in touch with her.” That is how Dodson became connected with the owner of the orphanage in Panama specifically for children with special needs and HIV-AIDS.

In August of last year, the group traveled to Panama all by themselves to see what they could do to help. Dodson found out that the owners of the orphanage needed help with medical knowledge, they wanted the groups help with selecting appropriate physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and nursing/medical equipment for the orphanage.

After returning from this trip, Dodson and another group member Jordan Hoile, a third year Physical Therapy student, started planning a trip to take a group of Physical Therapy students to Panama over Christmas break. While there, they visited a local orphanage and spent two days with the children, which included playing with them, caring for them and loving them. They toured the new orphanage (which is still in the renovation stages), toured the Children’s hospital, “Hospital del Nino” and did a little sightseeing for those who had never been to Panama.

Dodson say she keeps getting asked, “Why do you keep going back to Panama?” She says its really simple, “When I went to Panama in March, all I was able to see was significant landmarks and the cultural side of the country. But, when I went in August, and was able to learn about the horrible adoption laws and the awful conditions that children must live in in the orphanages, my heart immediately broke.” She reflects on the moments that bring her joy during her trips. “When I walk through the orphanage doors and see children run up to me with smiles and full of laughter just warms my heart, especially when I see the conditions that they’re living in.”  Dodson still plans to continue traveling to Panama, donating her time to the orphanages and the beautiful children. She says that maybe in the future she dreams of adopting a child with special needs from Panama. But for now, her plans are to continue to plan trips to get more Shenandoah University students to help the orphanages and the children.  She is also currently working on trying to plan a Nursing trip during spring or summer break. Panama is now a second home to Brittani Dodson.

Another group of students, in conjunction with the Spiritual Life office went on a mission trip to the warm Bahamas over Winter break.

Student leaders Emily Howdyshell and Nick Ruxton organized the trip after visiting the island last year and falling in love with the culture. This group worked in conjunction with the Bahamas Methodist Habitat. These students painted, cleaned, sorted, organized and even visited with individuals with various non-profit organizations throughout the Bahamas. Kayla Fox, a sophomore who was on her first mission trip, said her favorite part of the experience was, “Seeing the work getting done and seeing the kids come home from school.” Additionally pharmacy student, Samantha Howlett said “It is amazing that within a week we have been able bond with other members of our group, which is really cool especially since I am off-campus.” Other members of the team include: Dr. Justin Allen, Cassandra Scott, Ryan Davis, Amy Robertson, Victoria Stowell, Mary Claire Miller, Jess Brown and Emily Menhorn.

The last group that traveled abroad was the organization Students Helping Honduras. A Shenandoah’s group of four was led by senior, mass communications major Catherine Floyd. This nonprofit group has the goal to build 1,000 schools in Honduras by the year 2020. While there, the Shenandoah University chapter was working on the classroom additions to the Villa Soleada bilingual school. Villa was the first school built by SHH. Shenandoah’s chapter, which Floyd is president of, is hoping to raise 2,000 dollars for the completion of the roof for the fourth grade classroom. The nonprofit has set that each chapter can choose and be completely responsible for a project of their choice. Students Helping Honduras has a focus on education and ultimately to end poverty within Honduras. To join the chapter and help reach their goal please contact Catherine Floyd, at cfloyd11@su.edu.

Sophomore Mike Ellis stayed at home during the holiday season but some of the best work needs to be done close by. During break, Ellis participated in the annual Feed The Homeless Program. His father, Sidney Ellis, established this program in 1987 when he was just 19 years old. Every year they put together their money and buy supplies to take to the homeless in Washington, D.C. This consists of making bag lunches with one of three types of sandwiches, chips or popcorn, fruit, a dessert and a drink. Also the program collects bags of clothing from family members, friends and schools for the homeless. In the past, this program was normally done during Thanksgiving but recently switched to holding it at Christmas time. “Instead of getting Christmas gifts, we decided it was time to give gifts.” Ellis said. Recently Ellis teamed up with junior Brittany Norling and co-founded “Come Back, Give Back” which is a coat drive to gather items for the local churches that host Homeless People in Winchester.

Over breaks there are many things you can do and one is volunteer work. It doesn’t have to be big or in another country. Just by helping people in a time of need can make you feel good. There are many opportunities here at Shenandoah to help you get connected with services projects.

Author: The Buzz

The official site of Shenandoah University's student newspaper, The Buzz.

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