Saturday, October 4, 2008

Wittenberg Swimmers Travel the World

Traditionally swimmer spend their summers by the water. Some lifeguard, some teach lessons, others just rack up the laps. This past summer seven Wittenberg swimmers followed a different path, spreading out across the globe immersing themselves in other cultures, gaining valuable educational experience and serving others.

Sophomore Conor O'Rourke traveled to Cap Haitien, Haiti, for a fourth consecutive summer with a program called Project Pierre Toussaint (PPT), an 11-year-old organization dedicated to helping the street boys of Haiti's second largest city. He helped to educate, offer guidance to the boys, and teach them how to become honorable members of Haitian society.

"Many of these boys were orphaned, or their families could no longer take care of them," O'Rourke said. "Boys as young as six years old are left to literally fight for their lives, food and a place on the street to sleep."
"Along with five other close friends, I helped establish a sports camp for the boys of Pierre Toussaint, giving them something fun to do over the summer as well as establish good sportsmanship," O'Rourke said. "This was the second annual PPT Sports camp, and we had over 100 campers in attendance."
O'Rourke and other members of the Wittenberg swim team, as well as other campus groups, coordinated the donation of old sneakers and soccer cleats for the boys to use.

Junior Pat Deering spent the first month of his summer vacation studying in Russia, splitting most of his time between the historic cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Deering attended various lectures with professors from Moscow State, important city leaders, artists, architects and others. In addition to meeting new Wittenberg students and interacting with professors in a "non-classroom" environment, he built relationships with a "great group of Russian college students."

Juniors Amy Prugh and Neil Anderson traveled to Japan. Prugh spent four weeks in Tokyo and her last weekend in Kyoto but feels that she only "scratched the surface" of the full Japanese culture. Anderson could not believe how welcoming the Japanese were and the high level of respect they have for fellow human beings. He plans to continue that theme in his own life at Wittenberg.

Sophomore Matt Higbee and junior Kristin Elber, class of 2010 from Brunswick, Ohio, spent part of their summer traveling in Germany, individually visiting such places as the Marienkirche, where Martin Luther preached, Berlin, Dresden and Leipzig, and working on service projects. They even swam in the Baltic Sea.

Elber also took advantage of an opportunity to train with a German swim team – ironically based at the "other" Wittenberg, the historic city where Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses. She found training with people who yell things in a different language challenging.

"If there's one thing that holds true, swimming is a universal language and it's obvious we share a universal bond," she said.
Sophomore Kayleigh Alexander spent the first part of her summer with a church group in Guatemala. She did volunteer work in elementary schools, singing songs and making friendship bracelets.

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