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UMPI students fundraise for service learning trip to Tanzania

A group of women connected with the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Social Work program are more than halfway to their goal of raising $12,000 for a spring service learning trip to Moshi, Tanzania, and they’re looking for community support to successfully complete their fundraising efforts.

Four UMPI Social Work students – Abbey Atcheson, Kelsey Albert, Nicole Michaud, and Ashley Brewer – along with UMPI alumna Jen Borden and Husson University student Paige Nichols will be traveling with Shirley Rush, Associate Professor of Social Work and Bachelor of Social Work Program Director, to Tanzania in May of 2011 for the service learning trip of a lifetime.

During the trip, which runs from May 27 to June 12, the participants will have the opportunity to do service learning work where their abilities will be matched up with community needs. Service learning is not the same as volunteer work; it involves significant academic preparation and personal reflection. Service learning opportunities in Tanzania include working in an orphanage, assisting teachers, working with people who have HIV/AIDS, working with people with disabilities, and working with women in the area of economic development. Participants will receive their assignments prior to their departure.

“The question most frequently asked of our participants is ‘Why Tanzania? Don’t we have people in need in the US and Canada?'” Rush said. “Indeed, many opportunities for service exist on our continent. All those who are enrolled BSW students at UMPI are required to complete 700 hours of supervised field placement with people in need. Participants in this program are motivated beyond the classroom experience to travel, to make friendships, to set goals, to sacrifice and to promote community. Travelling to another country or continent adds a transformational dimension to each participant’s understanding of culture, need and privilege.”

The seven women preparing for the Tanzania trip have been working hard for months to raise the money needed for all of them to go. They have committed to paying for at least 1/3 of the cost of the trip out of their own pockets. Another 1/3 of the cost of the trip is being generated by individual fundraising, which includes donations from family and friends, selling crafts, etc. The final 1/3 of the cost of the trip is being done collectively. So far, the group has done a number of fundraisers on campus and in the community, including offering a concession booth at summer festivals, holding a raffle for a cord of firewood and a quilt, and selling soup, Avon products and apple pies. Fundraising efforts continue with the sales of beaded bracelets, a food booth during the Winter Festival street fair on Saturday, Feb. 5, from 5 to 8 p.m., a booth at the Kiwanis Home and Recreation Show being held April 16-17, and other events on campus and in the community.

Participants can’t stress enough how much of an impact community support for their trip has: “Every person who buys a ticket or a cup of soup is going, in spirit, to Tanzania with the group,” Rush said.

This service learning adventure grew out of a 2008 trip to New York City where 10 social work students participated in the annual Social Work Day at the United Nations as well as an International Social Work Conference for students at Fordham University. The following year, four UMPI students, with the support of community fundraising in the US and Canada, were able to spend a week in Guatemala where they painted the exterior of a local public kindergarten. All of the students who were involved in the Guatemala trip are now employed in the social services field.

“The women involved with these trips are working and living locally, while also acting globally,” Rush said. “These efforts are able to happen because of the support of our neighbors, so we’d like to thank the members of our community for their help so far and to ask them to be on the lookout for our upcoming fundraising efforts that allow service learning opportunities like this to continue happening.”

For more information about the trip to Tanzania or about fundraising efforts, contact Shirley Rush at 768-9427