A financial boost from a University crowdfunding initiative helped broaden the service provided by nearly 60 Duquesne students during the University’s recent spring break Cross-Cultural Mission Experiences (CCME).
Four unique CCMEs, hosted by Spiritan Campus Ministry (SCM), each received additional financing from crowdfunding campaigns featured on the Office of Annual Giving’s Spirit platform. Money raised for each trip allowed participants to expand the breadth of their projects and collaborate in ways that have both enriched the programs and enhanced service-learning within the visited communities.
Campus Minister Kate Lecci said the crowdfunding piece is a fantastic addition to the trips. For those unable to go on a CCME, contributing through crowdfunding allows donors to feel like they are rallying behind the mission as they help students reach their goal. “Each group is responsible for creating their crowdfunding pages, and SCM staff work with locals to develop projects that respond to immediate needs,” said Lecci.
In addition to maintaining their 28-yearlong relationships with the Mullens, W.Va. and Immokalee, Fla. communities, SCM cultivated new connections with Spiritan parishes in the urban areas of Chicago, Ill., Dayton, Ohio, Arlington, Va., and Baltimore, Md. Lecci said that each location was specifically chosen, and the CCMEs were tailored to meet the specific physical and spiritual needs of residents in those areas.
Once identified, the projects were carried out by both students and community members. For example, the goal in Mullens was to fund a variety of farming initiatives, such as high tunnels and raised garden beds. “Our students worked side-by-side with residents to construct the raised beds,” said Lecci. “Eventually, they will be able to grow their own produce there to help those in need. Each trip follows this same format.”
According to Lecci, the CCMEs focus on more than providing a week of service—they offer a chance to truly build and foster relationships with members of the community. “The trips enable students to step outside of their comfort zones and learn about real issues of poverty, homelessness and unjust working conditions directly from people experiencing these difficulties,” said Lecci. “The CCMEs are an opportunity to encounter the ‘other’ in a very Spiritan way—through the ministry of presence.”
Reflections before, during and after the trips help participants process the experience and make connections with social justice. CCMEs are just one of the many ways the campus community represents the passion, empathy and spirit of Duquesne University’s mission of service.