Faculty forges Africa ties, opens opportunities for ed. majors

Cabrini’s president, three faculty and a trustee traveled to Swaziland, Africa, to establish a partnership with a Cabrini mission there that serves children orphaned by AIDS.

Swazi children attend school as a part of Cabrini Ministries Orphan and Vulnerable Children Program. Several faculty members went to visit the ministry this summer. -- Beverly Bryde/Submitted Photo

“This partnership will benefit students and faculty members by providing them another global opportunity, enabling them to apply the skills learned in their majors to a real-world setting and developing within the curriculum Orphan Vulnerable Children (OVC) issues from a global perspective.” George said.

In parallel to Cabrini’s core curriculum, Justice Matters, the school’s plan to implement an additional partnership is not out of the ordinary.

“We want a Cabrini education to promote an understanding of societal issues at both the local and global levels,” George said. “Global service opportunities offer students the chance to live in solidarity with members of different cultures, as well as investigate what is needed to effectively facilitate change. As Catholic Social Teaching mandates, in order to affect change, one must learn from the culture and people in that area.”

Former Cabrini students have visited Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland in the past. Terry Aberici, 1976 Cabrini graduate and more recently, Chris Sweeney, 2008 Cabrini graduate, have taken advantage of Cabrini’s partnership with its ministries in Africa to do volunteer work.

Faculty members from Cabrini College plan on visiting these children from the orphanage in Swaziland on a regular basis to strengthen the partnership. --Beverly Bryde /Submitted Photo

According to George, the college has plans to open the opportunity to visit Swaziland on a more regular basis.

“These opportunities have yet to be developed but will be in response to the needs of our partner (Cabrini Ministries) and linked to all appropriate majors, the Wolfington Center, and the Justice Matters curriculum.”

The trip that faculty members were a part of was in repsonse to an inquiry of Sister Barbara Staley to have college students who have Cabrini values to take part in a life-changing trip.

“Sr. Diane Dalle Molle, MSC and Sr. Barbara Staley, MSC hosted our visit, introducing us to their health and child care programs,” George said.

The two sisters are interested in having social work and education majors to help put into operation a few different programs that offers the OVCs in Swaziland a chance to thrive in a poor nation.

The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus have served at the St. Philip’s Mission in Swaziland since 1971. The plan, which is not yet in effect, is meant to aid the mission in their efforts to provide services such as housing for the OVCs, the Home Based Care program that cares for the sick and dying from common illnesses such as HIV and Tuberculosis and granting education for children past seventh grade.

Public schools in Swaziland use a British education system in which they are taught in English. As a result, a standardized test that seventh graders are required to take in English has a 90 percent fail rate. If a student fails the test, they cannot continue to the high school level.

“The teachers in the rural area schools are not very qualified,” Dr. Beverly Bryde, associate professor of education, said. “For the ten percent that do pass and move onto high school, the government then pays for the student to go to a university.”

Education majors would participate in the program by establishing after-school programs that better accommodate the OVCs in an environment that they are comfortable in. Social work majors would perform case studies on the orphans as a mutually valuable experience.

“The sisters currently pay for the 120 or so students at the ministry to attend the public school,” Bryde said.

Students must pay for public school in Swaziland, which is a heavy burden on the population of extremely poor people.

The Ministry is located in a drought-stricken region of the country where over 20 acres are owned by the Catholic Church.  As a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in this particular part of Swaziland, the sisters have worked in “direct response to the devastation of an entire generation being wiped-out.”

Dr. George standing with Cabrini Ministries Orphans -- Beverly Bryde/Submitted Photo

For George and Bryde, along with Joseph Clark, assistant professor of science education, Dr. Erin McLaughlin, assistant professor of business administration and Trustee Dr. George Weathersby, who experienced a country suffering from such extreme poverty, a hopeful future seems realistic.

According to George, the students of Cabrini College will never be able to grasp the reality of the problem at the ministry in Swaziland unless they visit the culture themselves.

“In an area with little hope, the work of the Cabrini Ministries and the Church at St. Philip’s Mission is giving hope and restoring lives,” George said. “You must witness this directly to truly understand.”

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