University Raises Funds For Liberian Parish

Several campus offices, including the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service, the Office of Advancement, the Office of Mission and Ministry and the School of Nursing and Health Studies, collaborated this fall to raise over $4,400 for the Holy Family Parish in Caldwell, Liberia.

Chair of the NHS Department of Human Science and member of the Committee on Mission and Values Rosemary Sokas said that the committee conceived of the project in the fall brainstorming possible ways of directly reaching out and supporting African communities. The committee consists of dozens of faculty members and students.

“We got together with some of the students just to … think about ways that might be appropriate to … connect in a more ongoing way [and to begin] to have a relationship with them,” Sokas said.
The project raised funds from members of the Georgetown community by creating awareness of the Ebola crisis through town hall discussions and web seminars.

According to Holy Family Parish pastor Timothy Baghrmwin, the money collected through this fundraising effort has provided essential resources at the parish’s time of need during the Ebola crisis.

“[The] Georgetown University community came in a timely way to help. … That has gone a long way to provide some medical supplies for the clinic. It has also provided food for our poor people. Just before Easter we distributed 48 bags of rice and chicken to the poor of our parish and community,” Baghrmwin said.

Baghrmwin also said that the parish still requires financial support to pursue projects in the surrounding community.

“We have a school project we intended starting last year but unfortunately with the Ebola incident, the whole project is put on hold. The finance is not available to furnish to the first five classrooms and pay the salary of teachers,” Baghrmwin said.

Sokas said that they will continue to contribute funds to the community in Caldwell, which has been greatly affected by the Ebola crisis.

“[Even] before the Ebola crisis, the proportion of health care workers to the population [in Liberia] was less than 10 percent of that even in Nigeria. This is an area where the need was huge to begin with and has only gotten worse as the economy has collapsed and as the health care system has been fragmented further,” Sokas said. “This is just as clearly an area of need that we can work on as a longstanding on going effort. … We don’t just plan to walk away as the Ebola crisis recedes.”

Sokas said she was proud to see Georgetown students, alumni and faculty come together to support this cause. In addition to fundraising, Sokas has contributed greatly to increasing awareness of the Ebola crisis on campus. In the past year, she has organized two town-hall-style meetings in which various individuals discussed the different facets and implications of the Ebola virus.

“I am really in awe of the ability of people in our community at Georgetown to come together and really walk the walk and support each other, trying to live the Jesuit values and that this particular relationship with Holy Family Parish is a wonderful example of that,” Sokas said.

According to Executive Director of the Center for Social Justice Andria Wisler, the Jesuit connection between Georgetown and the Holy Family Parish allowed for easier channels of communication.

“As it is a Jesuit parish, we had channels through our Jesuit province to ensure that these funds were easily transferred directly to the parish,” Wisler said.

Fundraising was organized in two tiers, which included a web seminar created by the NHS and a donation collection box at the Office of Mission and Ministry. The webinar included an online fundraising drive for Georgetown students, professors and alumni.

“Fundraising took place through Dr. Sokas’ contacts, making announcement via email and Facebook, as well as at events in the fall semester related to raising awareness about Ebola. Fundraising also took place at Campus Ministry religious services,” Wisler said.

In addition, student fellows of the Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network contributed to fundraising and educational activities. JUHAN is a joint initiative between Georgetown, Fairfield University and Fordham University in increasing humanitarian crises relief efforts.

Sokas said that although they started the fundraising efforts to respond to the urgency of the situation in Liberia, she hopes to continue providing aid in new ways and working in conjunction with new programs, such as Jesuits Missions Inc., a Jesuit missionary enterprise that will help transfer funds to the parish.

“We’re in communication, working with, Jesuit Missions Inc. to figure out the mechanisms to get the funding from the United States into the parish. We did it through Georgetown University when it was an emergency situation, which was wonderful. … right now we need some plans to make it a really ongoing regular activity,” Sokas said.

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