Palm Beach Atlantic University junior Collena Whitbeck felt an overwhelming desire to serve in Malta this summer, where she will provide assistance to African refugees along with her classmates and other volunteers.
But before she could pack her bags, Whitbeck needed to raise financial support for the trip. She also wanted to become strong spiritually and physically for the three-week journey. The team departs for Malta today.
“I wanted to be healthy so that I could help other people,” said Whitbeck, a computer science major from Lumberton, N.J.
|Crossfit CityPlace owner Matt Brewster coaches Palm Beach Atlantic University student Collena Whitbeck about lifting weights. The gym helped Whitbeck raise money for an upcoming global summer project in Malta.|
With that in mind, she came up with an idea. A few weeks ago she decided to join a gym, and she asked friends to make pledges according to how much weight she lost. She approached the management of a nearby fitness center, Crossfit CityPlace, to see if the business would match the pledges.
Not only did owner Matt Brewster agree to help, he also asked the gym’s patrons if they wanted to make pledges as well. Because of its proximity to PBA’s campus, many of the gym’s members are students and alumni.
Brewster said that his business has participated in other fundraising events in the past. “This was the first one we’ve done like this,” he said.
Whitbeck said she also received support from her friend and fellow student Amanda Jackson, who joined Crossfit so that she could work out with Whitbeck. Another friend, recent PBA graduate Taylor Kaprive, gave her advice about healthy eating, she said.
|Palm Beach Atlantic University student Collena Whitbeck hugs a woman in a refugee camp in Malta in 2013.|
Within eight weeks, Whitbeck lost nearly 15 pounds and gained muscle, she said. She also improved her endurance.
Before she started going to Crossfit, Whitbeck could never run for more than four minutes continuously, she said. Then one day when she was running, “I didn’t realize I ran an entire mile without stopping,” she said.
She also has made gains in strength conditioning. Recently, she lifted 125 pounds in a back squat, she said. When she began, she said, she was only able to lift 45 pounds.
Through pledges and the matching donation, Whitbeck raised nearly $800 toward her trip. This will be her second time traveling to Malta with PBA’s Campus Ministries.
She said she is looking forward to being more active this time around. Last year, the group’s host family frequently played soccer with the refugees as a means of outreach, she said.
Back then, “I always used to be the person who sat out,” she said. “I didn’t want to be that person again.”
In addition to Malta, PBA students are departing this week for global projects in Asia, South Africa, South Asia, Sweden and the Turks and Caicos islands. Also, one team of PBA students will participate in a 10-week trek through several countries in southern Africa.