Students at Wittenberg have been involved with service projects all over the world. One of those trips being to Lesotho, Africa. One of the smallest, and poorest, countries in the world, Lesotho has the third highest AIDS rate in the world and is home to more than 220,000 orphans. This country is in desperate need of help and Wittenberg students heard the cry.
The idea started with a class, taught by Scott Rosenberg, professor of African and Diaspora studies, that focused on the study of malnutrition. The research slowly spread to students asking how they can address the malnutrition in Lesotho. During numerous service trips to the country, students were able to establish relationships with non-profit organizations like Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity and Springfield Rotary to build homes, greenhouses, playgrounds, chicken coops and more for the small country.
With these relationships, the Wittenberg team chose to work with Pack Away Hunger and was able to organize numerous packing events that will provide the small country with thousands of meals. The meals include rice, soy, a special nutrition packet containing 24 essential minerals and vitamins and dried vegetables.
Becky Schmitthenner, ‘17, has been involved with this group for two years and traveled with Rosenberg to Lesotho last year.
“It was such an amazing experience,” Schmitthenner said. “I would highly recommend that everyone get involved.”
On Nov. 12, the team helped organize a packing event held in the HPER Center. Hundreds of first-year students volunteered to help pack meals to be sent to Lesotho. Sporting attractive hair nets, students packed more that 60,000 meals in just one day.
Volunteer Joyce Peterson has been involved with Pack Away Hunger for more than 10 years. She and her husband initially got involved when the group came to her church and from that point on, she’s been hooked.
“I’ve always been heavily involved with my local food pantry and have been interested in helping people in third world countries for as long as I can remember,” Peterson said. “It’s the people you meet when you volunteer that make it such a fun experience. They’re always so enthusiastic and the accomplishments are very encouraging.”
Not only did students want to organize more packing events, they also wanted to spread awareness to the community as well as around campus. Bloom Africa was established to do just that. The purpose of Bloom Africa is to promote awareness and understanding about HIV/AIDS in small African countries.
After the event, Rosenberg had some encouraging words for students interested in getting involved with the program.
“Make it your goal to go to countries like this to learn,” said Rosenberg. “When we went to Lesotho, we asked things like ‘What can we do to help?’ and ‘What do you want us to do?’ and I think that mindset is key.”