Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Volunteering begins with U.

How did you spend your most recent college spring break? Eleven students from the School of Social Work at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich., spent their time with Clean the World in Orlando, recycling soap and, hopefully, saving lives with their efforts.

“We wanted to pick an organization that a lot people may not have heard about, but that could benefit from a week’s worth of volunteering from our team,” says Pam Gesund, undergraduate in the School of Social Work at EMU. “Our instructor, Jenny Fritz, found Clean the World, learned more about it and got us really excited about coming here to help recycle soap.”

Gesund and her 10 colleagues worked tirelessly throughout the four days of their visit, scraping soaps, dipping them in a cleansing solution and preparing them for a steam-cleaning to remove all impurities. While the process may be tedious, the reward is worth the effort, she says.

“It is amazing. I just keep saying that I never knew that so many children were dying from something as simple as not having access to soap,” Gesund says. “To know that every bin we clean out there in the warehouse will help 400 children have soap for a full month is remarkable.”

The students had friendly competitions with one another to see who could process the most soap each day. Keeping the focus on lives saved is easy at Clean the World, says Gesund, because the staff members are a lively bunch.

“The people who work here are phenomenal,” she says. “They are amazingly helpful people and they seem to be doing this from the heart.”

When they return to Michigan, the students will give a presentation to the dean and fellow EMU students to inform them about the Clean the World experience.

“We’re helping thousands of children get soap so they can live healthier lives,” Gesund says. “This is better than sitting in the sun all week.”

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