Leaders inspire others at mass volunteer meeting

Surrounded by pictures of smiling African children, audience members at the FACE AIDS Inaugural World Health Day Volunteer Mixer listened to inspirational stories from student volunteers who donated their time to make changes in the world.

Held in the Sturges Auditorium on Monday evening, the Volunteer Mixer was a way for students to hear from and meet Geneseo graduates and current students who spent their time working with organizations such as Global Kids, Habitat for Humanity and FACE AIDS.

Keynote addresses were delivered by both recent graduate Kim Hanavan and James Nowak, a retired Fairport High School teacher.

Hanavan spoke about her recent six-month stay in a small Ugandan village on the shore of Lake Victoria in eastern Uganda.

"When you leave, the hard part is finding something that is self-sustainable," Hanavan said. She worked with the Global Volunteer Network to develop an educational program encompassing HIV/AIDS prevention and sustainable food production using chickens and goats.

Nowak described his experiences working in Kenya.

"We live on a streamlined bus with comfortable food and clothing; sometimes it gets a little bumpy," he said. "If you look out the windows hard enough you see we're running over the rest of the world."

Nowak said he was inspired to move to Kenya by one of his high-school students. He said he sold his house and most of his possessions in order to move to the African country and helped build structurally sound school buildings.

Nowak urged students to get out into the world and get involved.

"Geneseo students aren't the run-of-the-mill college students - they're bright and motivated," he said. "But you can't understand this world until you go out there and see it for yourself."

Other volunteers who spoke were senior Karen Merrill and junior Laura Lonski from Alternate Spring Break: Habitat for Humanity; alumnus Rafi Yusuf for the New York Hospital Queens Medical Center; freshmen Phara Souffrant and Haisu Qu for Global Kids, a New York City based AIDS-awareness program; and junior Anst-Bidry Gelin with H.O.P.E., the Haiti Outreach-Pwoje Espwa.

"You get to see on a really close level the impact you're making," said Lonski, who volunteered with Habitat for Humanity rebuilding houses in Biloxi, Miss.