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Mount Union Alumni Continue Giving Back

August 22, 2014 - by Lauren Reihl

Many students engage in community service while at Mount Union, but some students go above and beyond by traveling to a third world country to help the less fortunate.

Faculty member emeritus Steve Kramer, who leads one of these trips each year, contacted alumni who have participated in these trips in the past in order to plan a service trip. This summer, Kramer and community member Mike Patterson led 10 Mount Union alumni to El Salvador where they built 23 wood saving stoves over the course of the week.

It may not sound like very much – most Americans use their stoves every day without realizing how fortunate we are – but the people in El Salvador are not so lucky. The stoves they have are inside their homes, use a lot of wood and have no ventilation. This means that using the stoves not only adds to the deforestation problem, it fills the home with smoke when used. The newer stoves cost $175 each to build, but according to Kramer, the stoves are more than worth the money and effort.

“Although the actual work wasn’t very strenuous, it was very rewarding to readily see the impact that the stoves would have on the health of the families,” Kramer said. “The families were extremely grateful for our help and shared their gratitude in a ceremony near the end of our time there. They gave each of our participants a small gift to reflect their gratitude and individually shared what these stoves meant to them. It was a very moving experience for me and for everyone involved, I think.”

While in El Salvador, the group also spent a day at Barefoot Angels, an organization funded by ASAPROSAR (Salvadoran Association for Rural Health) that provides school, a safe place to play and counseling to children. They visited tourist sites upon arriving, but most of their time was spent visiting the families that they were building the stoves for. Fortunately, several alumni had good Spanish speaking skills to help with the interactions, as the families did not speak English.

The alumni ranged from the class of 1997 to the class of 2012, making this trip unique to Kramer. Typically the service trip is preceded by a course that allows students to prepare for the trip and get to know each other, but for this trip that was not the case. Most did not know one another and the group met at the airport before flying to El Salvador.

“The trip turned out to be very rewarding and enjoyable,” said Kramer. “The alumni group gelled together as a unit even though most didn’t know one another going into it. They became close friends and had a great time interacting with the children and families with whom we worked, with the ASAPROSAR staff, and also with one another. Our nightly discussions also proved to be very enriching.”

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