Oaxaca, Mexico, once a tourist-friendly city, is today plagued by relentless poverty, water pollution, sanitation disposal problems and inadequate drainage systems. This summer, Fordham graduates took small steps to improve the city’s harsh living conditions when they traveled to Oaxaca for the first ever Global Outreach alumni project.
Global Outreach, a volunteer organization that embodies the Jesuit tradition of service, has expanded its reach from a single community service project in Mexico in the 1950s to about 22 projects in countries including India, El Salvador, Mexico, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Romania.
The alumni project was created because of an intense interest within the alumni community to remain active in service.
“We wanted to provide them with a way to remain connected to Fordham and also be active in serving others within the global community,” said Anna Pfeiffer, the coordinator of Global Outreach at Lincoln Center.
Thirteen Fordham alumni participated in the Oaxaca project, spending 10 days assisting in construction and reforestation efforts, cleaning up trash and getting to know local families.
“We provided an ear for their personal stories, which opened our eyes to the realities of extreme poverty,” said Kristin Redmond (FCRH ’00), one of the participating alumni who lives in New Jersey and works for Merrill Lynch. “I found it heartbreaking to witness the conditions that some of the children were living in.”
That is the kind of life-altering experience Global Outreach is designed to provide.
“Global Outreach allows students to witness firsthand the realities of poverty and injustice that exist in the world,” said Pfeiffer. “In class, students learn about civil wars and economic repression. Global Outreach makes those concepts tangible. It is the perfect complement to their Jesuit classroom education.”
This summer, Global Outreach returned to one of its original sites, the Navajo Reservation, where Fordham students spent three weeks painting houses during the day and attending cultural events, including a Bear Dance, at night.
The most evident benefits of Global Outreach may be the newly painted homes and planted trees enjoyed by local citizens, but the rewards of the program are just as gratifying for the students involved.
“I was reminded once again of the poverty countless people experience in this world,” said Rory Mulligan (FCLC ’06), “except that this time it was in my own country.”