The Purdue University Social Work Club members devoted much of their free time this past spring semester to working on a fundraising project that generated more than $600 to be donated to "Build a School in Africa," an organization dedicated to building schools and bringing education opportunities to African children.
Social Work Club members raised money through bake sales and distributed empty water bottles to students and friends, asking they be filled with spare change to be donated to the project.
Club president Catherine Kass, of Porter, baked about 100 cupcakes for each bake sale, causing club members to say she was helping to build a school in Africa "One Cupcake at a Time."
"If baking cupcakes can help make such a huge and important difference in Africa - why wouldn't I do it?" said Kass. "We live in a time where our lives are intricately woven and tied with millions of others. Our families, our neighbors or strangers across the globe - everyone deserves our help. It is important to me to do what I can to help others in whatever way that I can - regardless of where they are in the world."
In 2010, Judy Lorimer, a retired kindergarten teacher from Massachusetts, who has committed herself to individually raising at least $10,000 annually to cover the cost of building one school, visited PNC to talk about the "Build a School in Africa" project and the students it aids. The Social Work Club gave Lorimer a donation that helped support two schools and club members have continued a close relationship with Lorimer.
"Build a School in Africa" is working on its 10th school near M'Pessoba, in Mali. This area does not have a school, so children must walk a dangerous route where several girls have been assaulted as they go to and from a distant school.
The Social Work Club has three primary goals - to assist on campus, in the surrounding communities and to take on one international project each year. Under the leadership of past president Bethany Lewis Hershman and vice president Christopher Pfeiffer, members this past year brought a home-cooked dinner and personal gift baskets for guests at the Ronald McDonald House in South Bend; they supplied "KinderCones" filled with school supplies to kindergarten students at Pine Elementary School to ensure they had the necessities to start the school year; they volunteered as dance partners at a spring dance for developmentally disabled adults and they raised money to "Build a School in Africa."
Mary Haug, of Knox, appreciates the broad focus of the club. "The Social Work Club not only reaches out to our local community, but internationally as well. At my first meeting, I was not sure exactly what I my place would be, but when I heard our international project was to raise money for a school in Africa, I found a spot in which I could contribute."
Club members welcome the opportunity to aid children who may not otherwise have an education.
"I'm happy to help a country with so much devastation. We take so much for granted; I cannot imagine not having the resources to take care of my children," said club vice president Toni Osowski, of LaPorte.
Jennifer Ham of Boone Grove noted that small gestures can add up to great things, "Changing someone's life can happen even from pocket change."
Club members believe "Build a School in Africa" will be their legacy project.
Lindsay Malik, of Michigan City, said, "I feel strongly about it. If children attending these schools are going to have a chance at a good, successful life, they are going to need an education."
Mary Love, of Chesterton, echoed the sentiment, "I had the luxury of attending classes, never worrying how I would pay for books or about my safety. Not everyone is that fortunate. Everyone should have the right to better themselves through education and feel safe in their school. I want to help create this for children in Africa."
The Social Work Club also includes Alexis Lashenik, Hobart; Jackie Pictor, Valparaiso; Mary Love, Chesterton; Alejandra Camacho, LaPorte; Kelly O'Donell, Michigan City; Betsey Black, Valparaiso; Julie Fowler, Michigan City; Billie Pappas, LaPorte; Ashley Michaels, Michigan City; Nick Montgomery, Valparaiso and Estelle Patterson-Rudd, LaCrosse.