For the past three summers, Tiffany Sanchez has given up her vacation time to spend time with underprivileged children in Honduras. However, this year is a bit different. She plans on involving USF in her efforts in giving something back to the poverty-stricken country.
Sanchez, an international studies student, has organized a shoe drive to collect children’s shoes and clothing to take to the poor children in Honduras.
Joan Newcomb, assistant of the International Studies Program, said the project was organized mainly because Sanchez’s plans to volunteer with the underprivileged children once again this summer.
“Many of these children (in the poor areas) do not have shoes,” Newcomb said. “My idea was to ask the many students in our department if they had sisters or brothers or neighbors who had outgrown their shoes. So far, we’ve had a very good response.”
The project, which started collecting items since Thursday, will continue receiving shoes, among other items, until April 15. The Geography Club and the Spanish Department is also participating in the drive.
Earl Conteh-Morgan, a professor in the International Studies Department, said projects such as the one his former student Sanchez is working on are beneficial.
“A project like that is useful because it shows sensitivity towards the plight of the less fortunate in other countries,” Conteh-Morgan said. “In the U.S., many people tend to take items, such as shoes and clothing, for granted. But in countries like Honduras these items are considered a luxury.”
Conteh-Morgan, who participated in the drive by donating his children’s old shoes, said that failing to participate in projects such as the Honduras drive would be wasting valuable resources for people who may not have the opportunity to have such items.
Regarding Sanchez’ s role in the project, Conteh-Morgan said her will to organize the drive and volunteer in Honduras illustrates that the courses she has taken in the International Studies Department has helped her become sensitive to problems of groups in other countries.
“It shows that our training in international studies has helped students such as (Sanchez) to see the needs of children elsewhere,” Conteh-Morgan said. “It has helped her transform her thinking and views of others.”
After sharing her past experiences in Honduras with Newcomb, Sanchez attributes the idea for the project for Honduras to her.
Last fall, Sanchez received an AT & T Wireless Service Learning Community Scholarship administered through the College of Arts and Sciences for the work she did in Honduras last summer, Newcomb said.
In addition to visiting Honduras for the past three summers, Sanchez has been involved with a youth mission which her church organizes every year.
“We go down there (to Honduras) every summer and we build homes for the poor; we visit orphanages; we do hospital visitations, clothing and food distribution,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said her trips to the stricken country are usually for two weeks, although this summer she plans to stay for at least six weeks, where she will be visiting the same communities she has helped the last three years.
Although it is the first time Sanchez has incorporated the USF community in her outreach efforts with Honduras, she said she hopes the children benefit from the items gathered in the drive.
“The villages we visit are extremely poor,” Sanchez said. “Most of the kids don’t have shoes … and most of the terrain is rock and dirt.”
She added that the kids in these villages are more prone to catch diseases when walking barefooted in the dirt. That’s why, Sanchez said, the project focuses on collecting shoes above all.
This will be the first time Sanchez will obtain internship credits for her volunteer efforts internationally.
As for what has impacted her the most while visiting Honduras, Sanchez said, “It has to be the children.”
“These kids show so much love. Every year I go back, (I) realize what an impact (I’m) making in their lives,” she said. “(I) just try to show them love and that there is someone out there that cares about them. It’s an incredible feeling.”
Donations can drop off in Room 307 and Room 373 in the Social Sciences Building.