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WFU students volunteer during winter break: serve the poor in India, rebuild homes in Mississippi

December 14, 2007

In the spirit of Wake Forest University’s motto, Pro Humanitate, (“For Humanity”) students and staff are preparing to spend their winter break on service trips in India and Mississippi.  Students leave for India Dec. 29, while the Gulf Coast reconstruction trip begins Jan. 2.  Both student groups will return Jan. 12. 

Eleven students will travel to Calcutta, India, where they will work with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in their efforts to serve the poorest of the poor.  The students will assist the missionaries by changing beds, bathing patients, cleaning the wards, and feeding and comforting the sick.  Called the “City of Joy” program, the annual service trip was founded by a Wake Forest student in 1994. 

Wake Forest senior Alison Schlemmer of Pittsburgh is the student leader for this year’s trip to Calcutta.  She says her trip to India during her sophomore year was a life-changing experience.  “I truly think that the people of Calcutta did more for me than I could ever do for them,” she says.  “They opened my eyes to an entirely new world, and at the same time made me truly aware of just how beautiful life can be even without the material possessions that we as Americans tend to hold in such high regard.  I was eager to go back the minute I got home, I just simply didn’t feel like my time there was finished.”

Twelve students with the university’s Catholic Community and Baptist Student Union will travel to Pearlington, Miss., to help in the continuing Hurricane Katrina relief effort.  This will be the Baptist Student Union’s third annual trip to Pearlington, a small town near the Louisiana border.  In 2005, Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed the entire town. 

Wake Forest Associate Chaplain Rebecca Hartzog says the first trip “was a very humbling experience.  We spent the time mostly mudding out homes, helping residents sort through their belongings to see if anything was salvageable, and knocking out molded and mildewed wallboard.”  Hartzog says many Pearlington residents are still living in FEMA trailers, but the finishing work that Wake Forest students will do over winter break, such as painting and installing cabinets and flooring, will allow families to finally move back into their homes. 

"Residents always asked us to remind our communities that they are still there, working to rebuild,” says Hartzog.  “Katrina is long over, but her effects are still evident all over the Gulf Coast.” 

More information about the Pearlington recovery effort is online at

Note to media:  Group representatives are available for interviews before they leave and after they return to campus. 

Press Contacts:

Audrey Fannin
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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