Villanovans continue to reach out through new non-profits

Karen Damara

It is amazing to note how students at Villanova jump in with both feet when it comes to serving the community around them. It’s a new school year, and there is fresh inspiration whirling in the air. With a number of new non-profit organizations forming on campus, students are carrying forward Villanova’s mission of reaching out to the world and trying to impact it for the better.

Blood:Water Mission

Blood:Water Mission is a non-profit organization founded by Grammy Award-winning band Jars of Clay. The name has dual significance. It signifies the need for clean blood and clean water in Africa. It also connotes the blood and water that flowed from Christ’s side during the Crucifixion.

The goal of BWM is to transform Africa by addressing the spreading crises there involved with HIV/AIDS and the lack of basic necessities. The two are intertwined, and the founders argue that the lack of resources in Africa is what keeps its people from breaking the cycles of sickness and poverty.

The idea to make Villanova a partner of BWM came from sophomores Sean DeWolf and Chelsea Woods.

“We were inspired to collaborate and do something for them – to help make a difference,” sophomore Co-Chair Maggie Carragher says.

The national organization is currently working on a project called “The 1,000 Wells Project,” which seeks to build wells in various countries in Africa. The project is based on the formula that $1 equals clean water for one African for one year.

“What struck us so hard is that a bottle of water here in America costs more than a dollar and that our contribution of so little can help so many people,” Carragher says.

Blood:Water Mission’s commitment extends beyond finances.

“They actually go out and train people in Africa to build their own wells and maintain them,” Carragher says.

Empowerment is a key undertaking here. Water is the most basic need and is sometimes taken for granted by those who have unlimited access to it. In Africa, women are forced to walk about eight miles to get water, which is usually unclean. BWM seeks to address this fundamental issue, which, if solved, will pave the way to battling HIV/AIDS, which affects around 26 million people in Africa.

Villanova’s chapter has the goal of raising funds on campus and sending them to Blood:Water Mission. Tentative plans include a church collection at Masses at the St. Thomas of Villanova Church, a T-shirt sale and a basketball tournament. “And definitely, a Jars of Clay concert!” Carragher says. “It should be a rewarding year filled with educating ourselves about the situation in Africa and finding ways to combat it.”

Villanova’s chapter of Blood:Water Mission can be reached at [email protected].

Just Food

Having explored the theme “Food and Foreign Trade” through the student organization Students Advocating for Latin America, senior Maddie Chera and junior Emily Fero decided to branch out and start a new club called Just Food.

Just Food is a non-profit organization in New York that strives to develop a just and sustainable food system within the New York City region. Advocating the group’s mission, Chera and Fero say they want to educate themselves and their peers about issues related to food.

With the spread of giant agro-corporations, small-scale agriculture is being negatively affected, thereby disturbing local economies.

Just Food aims to study the framework of our food system, to celebrate its positives and to work to improve upon its shortcomings in order to help fight concerns such as environmental issues, obesity and malnourishment.

Tentative plans include peer presentations and discussions on topics such as international food aid, Community Supported Agriculture, film screenings, guest speakers and field trips to farms.

“Our group is self-run, and we’re excited to do new things, like maybe have a ‘Villanova Cookbook,’ tend the herb garden in front of Dougherty, do some community outreach,” Chera says.

Just Food can be reached at [email protected].

Colleges Against Cancer

Imagine yourself in a situation where you are told that your best friend or one of your parents has cancer. Now imagine your reaction. You’re terrified and speechless. As you stare into space, all hope seems to spiral downward and come crashing down on you. The fact is there are millions of people across the globe who have encountered this situation.

Colleges Against Cancer is run by students who are passionate about finding a way around this disease – trying to prevent it, giving hope to those who have to live with it, cherishing the memory of those who have died battling it and celebrating those who have survived it. CAC is a branch of the American Cancer Society run for and by college students seeking to educate themselves about cancer.

Realizing the seriousness of the disease that claims millions of lives every year, CAC is committed to eliminating cancer by working toward the goals of the American Cancer Society.

Having encountered cancer in a personal way and recognizing the need to better educate the Villanova community about the implications of cancer, sophomores Megan Dyckman and Elisabeth Roche were inspired to start a Villanova chapter of CAC.

“Elisabeth and I went to Atlanta, where there was a conference for CAC chapters from all over the country,” Co-Chair Dyckman says. “The Pennsylvania Division Leader and our American Cancer Society Adviser thought it great to bring to Villanova.”

By having a CAC chapter on campus, the students intend to make cancer awareness a year-long priority, in addition to the Relay For Life event once per year.

“[The goal of CAC] is to better educate Villanova students about cancer and to make finding a cure part of our lives,” Dyckman says.

Plans for CAC include monthly fundraisers, each of which will focus on a different kind of cancer. CAC also hopes to teach students to screen themselves for breast and testicular cancer.

“We hope to have programs to educate people on how to better protect themselves from cancer and have survivors come in and speak,” Dyckman says. “I’m not a doctor, and I can’t help someone directly, but what I can do is raise money, which can be channeled to proper uses, such as research, and in the process, give people hope.”

Villanova’s chapter of Colleges Against Cancer can be reached at [email protected].

Operation Smile

“In my senior year in high school, I wrote a paper on the psychological aspects of smiling – what fascinates me is how much of your expression comes through your face and your smile, and how much a defect in these areas can inhibit your expression,” says Danielle Davies, president of the Villanova chapter of Operation Smile.

Operation Smile is an international organization that performs surgery without fee to correct childhood facial disfigurements and also provides and improves the health care systems in regions where good health care is hard to afford.

“A lot of the children are bullied and teased about their appearance and are forced to stay inside, especially in countries where they cannot afford corrective surgery,” Davies says.

Founded two years ago by Davies, the Villanova chapter of OS is seeking to expand in its initiatives.

“We are going to partner with the Foundation for International Medical Relief for Children chapter on campus and carry out health service-related projects,” Davies says.

The chapter hopes to plan a walk/run, a dodgeball tournament and a supply drive for this year’s fundraisers. OS has had successful fundraisers in the past and raised enough money to fund two surgeries. In spite of the now broadened focus of the club, the original mission still remains: “Changing lives one smile at a time.”

Villanova’s chapter of Operation Smile can be reached at [email protected].