Palm Beach Atlantic University student Mary Roberts is back from her three-week summer trip to India, but her heart remains with the children she met at a school in the slums of New Delhi.
Roberts, who was part of a nine-member PBA team, is working with a partner organization in India to spearhead a sponsorship program for children attending the Gregory Memorial School. The school was established in 2011 in a neighborhood where families live on the equivalent of less than $1 a day and where the 45 schoolchildren are the first to be educated, Roberts said.
Through the program, donors can sponsor a child for $30 a month, which will cover the costs of such things as food, uniforms, shoes, books, chalk, facilities and teacher salaries.
“Our prayers are big, but God is even bigger,” said Roberts, a sophomore ministry leadership studies major who is minoring in music.
Other PBA students also found themselves wanting to do more to help those they encountered during international trips.
Adrienne Ming recalls packing multiple changes of clothes for her three-week trip to Swaziland. But Ming’s suitcase was much lighter when she returned from the southern African nation, where she and eight teammates from PBA volunteered with a Christian organization assisting families touched by HIV and AIDS. Swaziland is reported to have the highest rate of HIV infection in the world.
Ming said she ended up donating her clothes to some of the impoverished children she met. “It felt so good to give what I had,” said Ming, a junior who is majoring in dance.
In all, more than 80 PBA students signed up to go on trips this summer through Campus Ministries. In addition to India and Swaziland, teams traveled to such destinations as Sweden, Asia, Southeast Asia and a refugee camp in the Mediterranean.
Currently a 10-member team is on a five-country trek of South Africa, and another team departs this week for the United Kingdom. Both teams are due to return in early August.
Those involved with Campus Ministries say it’s not unusual for students to want to take action beyond their initial participation in the trip. Even after they return, many students use social media and other means to continue building relationships with people they’ve met, said Mark Kaprive, director of Campus Ministries.
In some cases, those relationships came about in unexpected places.
Kannia Rousseau, a junior majoring in nursing, was part of a 10-member PBA team that volunteered with the organization Impact International to pick up trash, assist vendors, work in the children’s booth and do other acts of community service at the Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Mich. The annual festival is the largest public gathering of Arab-Americans in the country.
Rousseau said many of the Islamic attendees were surprised that Christians would help at the festival, which traditionally has attracted Christian hate groups.
When asked why they were there, the students said they came “to serve, just to help,” Rousseau said, adding that the team’s actions opened doors to many conversations about faith.
In Sweden, team members found many of the Swedish people were hesitant to engage in conversations about faith and religion. However, “those that are open to talking about it are eager to talk about it,” said Ben-Oni Francois, a senior majoring in Biblical studies.
Many of those relationships have continued via Facebook, Skype and email, said Taylor Smythe, a senior majoring in psychology who served as co-leader of the Sweden team.
“I look forward to the day when I will get to be with them again, whether that’s returning to Sweden or in eternity,” Smythe said. “It is beautiful to know that we have brothers and sisters around the world who are worshiping the same God and savior.”