Ten students who live in SFU residences spent two weeks in Lusaka, Zambia in May to volunteer their services with Habitat for Humanity’s Orphaned and Vulnerable Children Project.
Over the past two years the students raised $20,000 each to make the journey and pay for the materials to build two brick-and-mortar homes for vulnerable children and their mothers in the village of Kamunga.
“SFU’s Residence Life mission is all about student development and becoming an engaged citizen of the world,” says Rey Buenaventura, coordinator of communications and marketing for SFU Residence Life. “This is our first service-learning program and I think it’s a big step in seeing that we achieve that mandate.”
Residence life coordinators MIcaela Roughton and Patrick Bourke accompanied the students on the trip.
“People say trips like this change your life…certainly it gave us a perspective we’ll be able to draw on for the rest of our lives,” says Bourke, who learned not to be grumpy over trivial things such as whether or not he gets a hot shower, fresh clothing and a good meal at the end of the day.
“The people we were helping out had none of this, yet they were in great spirits, extremely happy and extremely courteous,” he says. “It gave me perspective.”
Dance student Christine Gamboa, who moved to Canada from the Philippines at age 18 to attend SFU’s fine arts program, says it was interesting to see the similarities and differences between the Philippines, Zambia and Canada.
The poverty levels in the Philippines and Zambia are similar, yet she was struck by how many of the locals had so little exposure to the outside world.
As well, she says, “The Habitat build really allowed for equality, you were in an environment where respect is earned through hard work and not at all through skin colour or monetary privilege. I appreciated that the most.”
The students received sponsorship for the trip from the SFU Alumni Association and SFU Advancement, as well as Big Momma Textbooks and Yeti Yogurt. Scotiabank matched funds that students raised during a fund-raising luncheon.
“The students helped bring those partnerships together,” says Buenaventura. “It was quite a big team effort.”