Oxford students work with nonprofits across country, around the world


   Spring-break week found many Oxford College students taking advantage of opportunities to travel for learning and for good causes. Two student groups were involved in service in the United States, while two other groups experienced the cultures of Costa Rica and Ecuador.
     A group of nine students and two staff leaders went to Little Rock, Arkansas, to work for the non-profit organization Heifer International. Heifer has a mission to work with communities worldwide to end hunger and poverty and care for the planet. Students learned about the organization's operations and helped as they were needed.
     A group of 28 students and three staff  leaders spent time in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, where they helped nonprofit groups working to rebuild the area devastated by Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012.
    Thirteen students visited La Carpio, Costa Rica, a low-income suburb of San Jose. Almost half of the population of La Carpio is composed of Central American refugees, primarily from Nicaragua, and most live in severely substandard conditions. Students stayed with local host families and spent the week learning about the area and performing hands-on service tasks. The group's in-country partner is the Costa Rica Humanitarian Foundation, which has set up service projects and arranged for educational opportunities through meeting with women in an indigenous community, speaking with a healer, and touring a coffee plantation and government health clinic. Service projects supported the local "Carpio clean, Carpio green, Carpio healthy" campaign. Patricia Del Rey, adjunct assistant professor of women's studies, accompanied the students.
     The 12 Oxford students who visited Ecuador were accompanied by sociology professor Mike McQuaide, assistant professor of biology Amanda Pendleton, senior lecturer in English Stacy Bell, and dean for academic affairs Ken Anderson. They spent time in Rio Blanco, in the upper Amazon basin, as a fulfillment of McQuaide's spring-semester class Sociology 231RQ: Social Change in Developing Societies. In Rio Blanco, students lived among the Quichua people, who are indigenous to the area. They learned about the culture first-hand, sleeping on rough-hewn beds as the Quichua do, eating their food and interacting closely. And all of this was done without Internet access, phone service, or electricity. "Students are off the grid," said McQuaide.
     The Pierce Institute for Leadership and Community Engagement provides financial support for all of these trips. Additional funding for the domestic trips was provided by the Oxford College Alumni Board.