University student's service work taking her to Africa
Madeleine Lee learned more than even she expected as a student volunteer in her high school's special education room; the hours spent there led to a mission to be in service to others less fortunate.
After several years of volunteering at Parker Elementary in New Bedford, as well as the city's Work Education Program, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth sophomore nursing student is traveling to South Africa for two weeks to provide aid to single-parent families in need of sustainable income.
Lee marveled at where her early years of volunteering have taken her. "I had no idea that any of this would come out of volunteering in the special education room," she said. " The extra shots to go to Africa are worth it!"
She will be joined by three friends from UMass— nursing students Brianna Lynch Rebecca Boros, and Ceramics major Sarah Backstrom.
The group is traveling from May 29-June 11 as part of a program called "Volunteer Eco Students Abroad." The program was established in 2009, and brings students to areas of the world where charities and other types of aid don't traditionally operate. The volunteers perform hands-on work to improve infrastructure and sanitation in impoverished areas, and work on conservation issues in those areas.
Lee, Lynch, Backstrom and Boros will spend two weeks in St. Lucia and Swaziland. In St. Lucia, they'll be building school buildings for children, as well as public kitchens and bathrooms. They'll also teach basic hygiene to St. Lucia's children.
"I'm really looking forward to helping build sustainable farming units for the families," Lee said. "I think that will be my favorite part. It will be something they can use long after we've gone home, and it makes them independent."
In Swaziland, the group will work on ways to help protect populations of the area's crocodiles and cheetahs. "I saw a photo from another person who went, and they got right up close to the animals. I mean, when else am I going to have the chance to wrangle a crocodile?" Lee laughed.
The service trip will be Lee's first independent foray out of the United States. "I thought, if I don't do it now, I never will," she explained. "I have the resources to go help, so I should go help."
The students are funding their expedition solely through donations. They have already raised a portion of the money needed through bake sales at local supermarkets, and intend to raise the rest through a variety of different activities. They will be providing the lunch and refreshments at the Mattapoisett Antiques, Vendor, and Craft Fair on February 3, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
Lee has also set up a GoFundMe account, "My Service Trip to Africa," at www.gofundme.com/hn8zj3-my-service-trip-to-south-africa, where she is aiming to raise $2,000.