South Africa Gives DeSales Group a Lifetime of Memories
Ask members of the DeSales University group about their trip to South Africa over semester break and they will say, without hesitation, it was a once-in-a lifetime experience.
The DeSales group, which consisted of nine DeSales University freshmen, two upperclassmen and three members of the faculty and staff, were in South Africa from December 27 to January 15, as part of "Destination: South Africa!" During the trip, students participated in education, research and service learning projects. The short term study abroad experience was offered through Character U, the new innovative first-year experience program at DeSales.
During their stay in South Africa, the group visited the city of Cape Town, Malmesbury, and the more rural area of Upington. They enjoyed temperatures that ranged from a sunny and hot 85 degrees, to a sunny, dry and very hot 110 degrees.
Projects included delivering food parcels to the poor and sick, distributing teddy bears to children, and building a brick walkway and doing landscaping at a local church. The trip's itinerary also included time for relaxation and personal enrichment, during which members of the group could go sightseeing and enjoy other activities.
"One of the reasons South Africa was chosen as the inaugural destination is because of the dynamic race, class and health issues that exist," said Dr. Douglas Michele Turco, professor in the department of business and director of sport management at DeSales. "Also, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales have operated a mission in the country for over 100 years."
In addition to health issues, such as the HIV/AIDS crisis, and the presence of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, South Africa was chosen because it offered students the opportunity to spend significant periods of time as a distinct racial and cultural minority. Also, it provided a chance to facilitate service learning experiences for students through contacts that DeSales University faculty and staff have in the country.
For Liz Pfister, '07, nursing major from Shippensburg, Pa., the most meaningful part of the trip took place in Upington, where members of the group visited the poor, many of whom were dealing with HIV and AIDS, directly or indirectly. According to Pfister, hearing their stories firsthand had a profound effect on everyone.
Through a hospice organization called Christanna, students visited people in their homes. Pfister met a girl, Rosalin, whose sister had died of AIDS. Rosalin, who is about the same age as Pfister, has put her life on hold to care for her sister's two children.
"It's so prevelant and such a part of their cycle of poverty that it's orphaning their children, taking their jobs, and perpetuating their hunger," said Pfister. "I remember the faces of these people the most, and the sadness," said Pfister. "At the same time, I recall the hope that rested in their faces."
According to Lucy Draus, '10, biology major from North Wales, Pa., the trip was a unique experience, one that helped her learn more about herself and feeling more motivated than ever before.
"I looked forward to doing the service projects. Sadly, witnessing the extreme poverty and sickness also made me realize how lucky I am," said Draus. "It made me appreciate the opportunities I have and the value of education."
"Experiencing a different culture and lifestyle was very rewarding," said Alan Olson, '10, physician assistant major from Derby, Conn. "Also, I remember how good it felt to help others. That's a feeling I will never forget."
The DeSales students who traveled to South Africa were: freshmen, Lucy A. Draus, Melissa C. Egan, Heather E. Fleischman, Gina B. Locke, Brittany Miller, Alan D. Olson, Harold S. Post, Jr., Kelly R. Schuster and Christopher T. Simpson.; junior David B. Wasserman; and seniors, Elizabeth A. Pfister and Brian W. Radziwill.
Faculty and staff members were: Father Joseph DiMauro, OSFS, associate dean for student life; Dr. Douglas Michele Turco, professor in the department of business, and Jamie Gerhart, director of social outreach.
Press Release: South Africa Gives DeSales Group a Lifetime of Memories | Posted on: 2/14/2007
For more info:
Tom McNamara, Executive Director of Communications
DeSales University | 2255 Station Avenue | Center Valley, PA 18034
610.282.1100 x1219 | Tom.McNamara@desales.edu