Club President Lauren McNelly sums up the work of Minnesota State University’s Social Work Club this way:

“When we hear about a need,” she says, “we take it under our wing.”

The latest cause to benefit from their generosity is a university in Namibia, Africa, where officials are trying to establish a village outreach program to educate people about AIDS. But first that university needs to educate its educators. And to do that, it need resources, a tough task for the cash-strapped International University of Management in Windhoek, Namibia.

That’s where the students from the Social Work Club come in. During the past year they have — in addition to a string of other community service projects — collected health- or AIDS-related books to donate to the university.

Books will be used to build up a resource library for outreach workers trying to stem the rapid spread of AIDS. In Namibia, population 1.8 million, one in five adults are infected with the virus that causes AIDS, and there are about 93,000 orphans that have AIDS.

On Wednesday, the students boxed up the text books they’d collected since the day the campaign was launched, exactly one year earlier. They hauled them down to the post office and sent them on their way to Africa and the university’s Institute for AIDS.

Their project began when retired social work professor Richard Wintersteen, who was doing mission work in Namibia, contacted them. He’d told them about the AIDS crisis and about the university’s goal of collecting AIDS and health reading resources.

So the students began collecting books. They put the word out to everyone in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. They even got help from students at St. Cloud State University and the College of St. Catherine’s. As the books poured in, they began the process of pulling from the collection books focusing too heavily on American policy or with an American point of view of health care and AIDS education.

They were left with several dozen high-quality books. Then they realized they had a cash problem, too. They needed a few hundred dollars to ship them.

To raise money they held bake sales and sold wristbands, and eventually pulled in more than $3,000 — more than enough to cover shipping costs. By now, the books could already be on their way across the Atlantic.

The club has 70 members, about 30 of which attend weekly meetings. They are led by a core group of club officers that includes McNelly, Mandy Forsyth, Crystal Curtis and Heidi Williams. They have become very close through their involvement with the club, and their work has stretched well beyond this project.

Among the groups they’ve worked with — or taken under its wing — are CADA House, Yellow Ribbon, Sexual Violence Resource Center, Summit Center, VINE and many others.

“I think it’s amazing, all the things we’ve accomplished,” Curtis said.

“This has been such a positive experience,” Williams said. “I can’t think of one bad time.”

Forsyth, full-time student and single mom, said she’d considered taking a semester off from the Social Work Club, but ultimately opted to stay in.

“I don’t think I would want to go through a semester without helping people,” she said.

Their instructors have been impressed.

“What I’m most proud of is that the club makes all the decisions. The club does the work. The club has learned from their successes,” instructor and club adviser Nancy Fitzsimons said. “And they’re making a difference in the community.”

React to this story:


Trending Video

Recommended for you