By MEG McCAFFREY
FAIRFIELD – More than 100 care packages were put together by Fairfield University students and sent to caregivers of people living with HIV and AIDS in Swaziland for a project called ‘To Swazi With Love.’
Of the African country’s population of 1.1 million, nearly 200,000 people reportedly live with HIV. The packages included hygiene items for the compassionate care of them, as well as notes of encouragement written by Fairfield students.
Chrystie A. Cruz, assistant director of student diversity programs, said Fairfield United – compromised of 10 different cultural and infinity clubs –played a vital role. The endeavor involved the efforts of more than 100 people on campus, with assistance from Residence Life, Campus Ministry, Student Diversity Programs, and Student Programs & Leadership Development. “The care packages included such important day to day items as soap, wash cloths, ointments and book bags because many caregivers have to travel far into town for these things,” Cruz said.
The service project was the idea of Camile Gomes, of Bridgeport, a senior majoring in chemistry and music management. She was inspired to initiate the endeavor after attending an InterVarsity Christian Missions Conference called Urbana 12. There, she had the opportunity to participate in the World Vision Caregiver Kit Assembly event to help people in developing countries where there are tens of thousands of AIDS sufferers.
“It was a powerful experience for me to learn about how selfless and loving these caregivers were along with the dire need for assistance in these countries,” said Gomes, president of the Commuter Club. “After that, God put it in my heart to bring this event back to Fairfield and so I did.”
The three-part project on campus also included an HIV/AIDS expert panel discussion, and an informational session on Swaziland where HIV is a major challenge for families and children and is impacting the economy.
For Gomes, the experience proved to be a way to inspire students. “My goal for this whole project was actually just that, to empower students,” said Gomes, who was born in Rio De Janeiro. “If students walked away from ‘To Swazi with Love’ feeling like they could change the world, then I succeeded.”
Fairfield University is a Jesuit University, rooted in one of the world’s oldest intellectual and spiritual traditions. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students from 36 states, 47 foreign countries, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are enrolled in the University’s five schools. In the spirit of rigorous and sympathetic inquiry into all dimensions of human experience, Fairfield welcomes students from diverse backgrounds to share ideas and engage in open conversations. The University is located in the heart of a region where the future takes shape, on a stunning campus on the Connecticut coast.