Roots of Change, GIVE program promotes international voluneering

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As a college student swamped with worries of money, school and work, it is often difficult to think about helping others. At Northern Arizona University (NAU), however, a group of students have found the time to not just help others, but change lives. Founded in Seattle, Wash., Growth International Volunteer Excursions (GIVE) is an organization aiming to encourage international volunteering among people from all over the world. GIVE groups have been formed all over the country and have been visiting communities in Africa and Central America to help clean up the environment in addition to exchanging knowledge and culture.

GIVE was introduced to NAU in the fall 2012 and continues to grow as more students become involved. The president of the club, junior anthropology major Kelsie Lawson, hopes to help students travel to Nicaragua this upcoming summer.

“I went on a trip to Nicaragua with this program and it was the best time of my life,” Lawson said. “It was an amazing experience that was extremely humbling and fun.”

Lawson decided to start a GIVE group on campus because she wanted other students to have the same life-changing experience she had.

“There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t wish I could be back in Nicaragua chilling on the beach and talking to the locals,” Lawson added.

Although the club is fairly new to NAU, the enthusiasm within the group is undeniable. NAU GIVE is an official group on campus, meeting periodically in order to arrange fundraisers and plan for their trip in the summer. Club member Patricia Tabamo, a junior biomedical science and Spanish major, also became involved with GIVE before coming to NAU.

“I’ve done a lot of volunteer work since middle school,” Tabamo said. “I wanted to find something that would combine my language learning with volunteer work, so going to a Spanish-speaking country to volunteer was perfect.”

Tabamo is the vice-president of NAU GIVE and is working in conjunction with Lawson to give Flagstaff students a Nicaragua trip to remember.

“We want to get the word out that this organization is here, the volunteer opportunities are real and NAU students would get an amazing experience out of it,” Tabamo said.

The National GIVE group has been revolutionizing international volunteering. According to their website,the organization has been working on constructing classrooms with running water, playgrounds, plumbing and has been working to conduct a workshop in Nicaragua. As they constructed the school,they were able to replace the bricks with 15,000 plastic bottles from a community organized recycling program, in order to recycle the plastic instead of adding it to the mounds of unusable trash already consuming the world. They also work to include multiple topics of education within the Nicaraguan schools.Volunteers in Nicaragua have been collecting and transferring donations in order to uphold an English writing and reading program.

Shannon Erickson, a senior bilingual multicultural education major, feels she has found a perfect opportunity within the NAU GIVE organization.

“My dream is to be a bilingual teacher for English and Spanish in another country after I graduate,” Erickson said. “I fell in love as soon as I heard that I could teach at the school in Nicaragua every day while I’m there. I also love helping people, especially children, so I can’t wait to have fun with them and make them have an unforgettable two weeks while I am there.”

NAU GIVE provides NAU students with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel the world and change lives. With the trip still several months away, members are encouraging students to join them at their meetings, and hopefully tag along on their summer trip. For anyone interested in joining the group, contact the club leaders for more information or by following fundraisers on the NAU GIVE Facebook page at





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