New Crowdfunding, Urban Plunge Initiatives Boost Cross-Cultural Missions

While Spring Break provides an opportunity for students to vacation or stay home for relaxation, 65 Duquesne students and staff will take this time to embark on Cross-Cultural Mission Experiences (CCME) that will impact six different areas in the country.

Inspired by the Spiritan-led commitment of service to all, participants in the CCME trips immerse themselves into a world of the underserved and faith, working as allies with community members to understand their hardships and needs.

“The ultimate goal of these trips is to first build community within us and then offer our group as an additional resource to the work already being done in these communities,” explained Campus Minister Kate Lecci, who helped organize the trips. “We assist in different ways, from cleaning churches and volunteering at community food centers to building greenhouses and supporting the Fair Food movement. But, there is also a specific goal to create and continue relationships with people from these areas and to listen to their stories.”

Each day of the trip includes daily reflection and prayer so that group members can gain deeper insight into the mission experience and themselves.

In conjunction with the Office of Annual Giving, the CCMEs received a major financial boost from the overwhelming support via a new giving concept—crowdfunding, a 30-day online fundraising initiative. Crowdfunding campaigns were implemented for each mission trip experience to help increase support so to better serve those they will visit.

Each campaign not only met but also exceeded its goal, with one campaign reaching 237 percent of its goal. The original combined campaign goal was $4,000, but $6,124 was raised through 133 donations. The funds will be used to purchase cleaning supplies; food for community kitchens; blankets for homeless shelters; construction materials to build all-season greenhouses; plants and seeds for the greenhouses; and various aid for migrant farmworkers.

“We are very excited by the success of the CCME’s crowdfunding campaigns,” said Patti McVey Zappa, assistant director of annual giving. “The campaigns were a part of the initial launch of our new crowdfunding site, Aim. We couldn’t have asked for a better group of students, faculty and staff to work with. The students worked really hard to ensure their success so they could further assist the communities where they’ll be working. We can’t wait to follow along on their journey and see our donors’ generosity in action.”

This year’s CCMEs include:

Urban Plunge Experience: Two different Urban Plunge experiences to Spiritan Missions in the U.S. are planned. One group will journey to Arlington, Va., to spend time at Our Lady Queen of Peace as well as to Baltimore, Md., to visit St. Edwards Church in West Baltimore. The second group will travel to Chicago, Ill., to serve at St. Ambrose Catholic Church and to Dayton, Ohio, to help St. Benedict the Moor Parish. These experiences will focus on hunger, homelessness, food security and the dynamic of changing cultures in urban areas.

Appalachian Experience: This marks the 27th year Duquesne students will venture to Mullens, W.Va., for a mission trip. Students will partner with the Rural Appalachia Improvement League (RAIL) and stay at the Mullens Opportunity Center to build High Tunnel greenhouses, which will be used as a demonstrative model for growing vegetables in a protective environment in the Wyoming county area.

Migrant Farmworker Experience: Also in its 27th year, students will travel to Immokalee, Fla., to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and ally organizations. Students also will work in social services agencies to support migrant farmworkers and learn about the CIW’s Fair Food Program. They will have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with CIW members about their history and struggle to develop the Fair Food movement.

The University community is invited to read about the students’ experiences on the CCMEs blogs from Saturday, Feb. 28, through Sunday, March 8.

Faculty, staff and recognized student groups can learn more and submit applications for Aim by visiting