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Auburn study abroad students collecting supplies to benefit South African school

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Auburn University students bound for the new study abroad experience in Port Alfred, South Africa, this summer say they hope to make the journey with a large collection of school supplies to benefit an educational program outside Johannesburg.

Three students and Martin O'Neill, head of the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management in the College of Human Sciences, are piloting the new study abroad program and have already delivered an initial collection of backpacks and other school supplies to the Teboho Trust in Soweto.

The 10 students traveling to Port Alfred this summer already have started collecting more supplies, specifically flash cards, markers, colored construction paper and scissors. The fundraising efforts are being led by Eta Sigma Delta, the national hospitality honor society, and the Hotel and Restaurant Management program’s Student Advisory Board.

“I had never heard of the Teboho Trust before, but then Dr. O’Neill showed me pictures and videos of the kids,” said Lauren Long, student advisory board president and Eta Sigma Delta member. “They were the happiest kids, but basically had no supplies in their classrooms. He told us that they had to reuse their notebook paper because they had so few supplies. Little things, like paper and pencils, could make a huge difference to these kids.”

Long unfortunately won’t get to help deliver the supplies this summer since she graduates in May. Nicole Sanchez, who was instrumental in the backpack collection drive, is overjoyed to not only spend nine weeks studying hospitality in South Africa, but also to witness the influence the Auburn Family has on the world.

“It was so great to be a part of the drive and see the generosity of our students and of the faculty,” said Sanchez. “Seeing our supplies grow and grow over the course of the semester was incredible and the picture that Dr. O'Neill sent from South Africa when the supplies were delivered reaffirmed that we had done something that was really going to help.

“We have received resounding thanks from the Teboho Trust and we hope to continue to send items to South Africa with my group and those to follow.”

Teboho Trust was created in 2001 by American attorney Jose Bright. Teboho, roughly translated in the Sesotho language of South Africa, means “Thank you God for giving us this person … this gift,” is an educational support system for at-risk, orphan and vulnerable children and adolescents, ages 4 to 18. Programs include personal empowerment, social development, educational support, economic development and wellness.

Administrators in the College of Human Sciences learned about Teboho last summer when they were traveling to Port Alfred to discuss a study abroad agreement with Stenden University. A stop in Soweto, a neighborhood about 20 miles west of Johannesburg, netted an encounter with Bright, who was so inspired by Nelson Mandela’s call to action, he moved to South Africa more than two decades ago.

O’Neill said he noticed the need for basic school supplies in observing Teboho’s Saturday Academy, and upon his return to Auburn, enlisted students in the Hotel and Restaurant Management program in collection efforts.

“We intend to deliver supplies with each visiting student group as we move forward,” he said.

Donations of school supplies can be made at 328 Spidle Hall during normal business hours. Questions should be directed to Lauren Long at lbl0005@auburn.edu.

Naomi Keitt

Naomi Keitt focuses on education reporting for WRBL News 3. More>>

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