Forty students and faculty members of the University of La Verne Enactus made a difference to the less fortunate but taking a trip to an orphanage in Mexico last month.
Enactus is an organization of students and academic and business leaders committed to using entrepreneurial action to transform lives to shape a more sustainable world.
The ULV team volunteered in Mexico with The City of Children with the goal of providing orphans and children living in poverty with the medical, physical, emotional and spiritual support they need to prevent them from falling victim to human trafficking, child labor and prostitution.
“It felt very humbling to be a part of all the projects that we did,” said senior business administration major and Enactus member Gabriel Schaper.
“The people down there are either elderly or little kids who can’t help do such task throughout the year so that’s where we came in,” he said.
The team compiled over 12,000 hours of community service on the trip. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, there are currently almost 2 million orphans and 25 million people living in poverty in Mexico.
Issam Ghazzawi, professor of management and lead advisor of the ULV Enactus started the organization on campus nine years ago and he attended this year’s trip with the students.
“Going to the orphanage was really quite sad but also uplifting,” Ghazzawi said.
“When the kids see you they want to be affectionate, great you, shake your hand and hold on to you because they have no family. It makes you appreciative for what we have here,” he said.
“We essentially drove five miles south of San Diego during our trip and we got to see truly how bad things are,” Schaper said. “I would have never thought problems like that existed five miles away from us.”
The mission was to complete four main projects with The City of Children. These projects included cleaning up the legacy garden planted by the team last year, building a greenhouse, preparing over 550 plants to be placed in the greenhouse and planting 21 fruit trees.
The completion of these projects would help feed 90 orphans and 15 employees.
“The fresh fruit trees we planted will help them tremendously because it is hard to get fruit down there,” Schaper said.
“Providing the vegetables in the greenhouse to them that we planted will help them save money, so they can spend money on other things,” he said.
In addition to completing the projects, Enactus interacted and developed relationships with the orphans. The team gained first-hand access to the orphans’ lifestyle and culture and gained a new perspective of the poverty issues currently affecting many parts of the world.
“It was incredible to see how content all the orphans were with what little they have,” Schaper said. “We are pretty spoiled here even with all the great things we have.”
The students shared their knowledge of staying physically healthy by playing sports with the children and providing fitness classes. The team also introduced the orphans to interactive group activities and provided emotional support through mentorship programs.
“I had the opportunity to teach some girls dancing in a dance class that I held,” said junior business administration major and Enactus secretary, Ashley Isacsson. “It was great not only to promote healthy living, but also to have the opportunity to bond with them.”
Following the visit, 14 teen girls were partnered with 14 Enactus members to continue as pen pals and mentors for life.
“I love our students there so they can develop a connection there with the kids and especially the teens,” Ghazzawi said. ‘The best thing for the teens to see is correlations to the college students so they can start seeing the light of what having an education means.”
Last year, the team donated a 2,500-gallon tank to collect rainwater to help irrigate the garden they constructed.
This year, the tank was filled with rainwater accumulated throughout the year to help provide more resources to the people.
“Everybody was so proud to see how last year’s efforts of providing the water tank has already made such a big difference,” Schaper said. “Over the course of the past year, the water rates went up exponentially in Mexico, making life even tougher on those living there. The natural water tank has only made it possible for them to survive in the team was grateful to be a part of that.”
Isacsson has been involved with Enactus for three years.
“It’s been great to see the recognition that we’ve gotten as a team,” she said. “Just last year we got awarded as the most impactful club on campus.”
Enactus members are taking a step in trying to solve world hunger and poverty by helping the less fortunate.
“I want our students to come back with an understanding that there is another side of life out there beyond just living here in the United States,” Ghazzawi said. “We take for granted what we have here. By going down there and having it put into perspective that other people suffer.”
Hal Hargrave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.