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Mount Students Bring Spirit of Service to Ethiopia


Riverdale, N.Y. –This summer, Owen Smith ’18 and Damarcus Williams ’18 will bring their passion for service to Ethiopia, fighting poverty by fostering lasting, systemic change.

Mr. Smith said he was drawn to Vincentian Lay Missionaries (VLM) because of its strong Vincentian values, that is, living simply with peace and dignity, but also with a zeal for justice. “In particular, I was inspired by the program’s commitment to having volunteers live in solidarity with the people they serve,” Mr. Smith said. “Working and living with the people instead of solely for them creates deeper relationships and more lasting service.” He was also attracted to the Vincentian emphasis on reflection. VLM participants engage in mindful reflection each day while working abroad.

Mr. Smith will be traveling to Bahir Dar, Ethiopia’s third most populous city, for five weeks. He will work at the Blessed Ghebre Michael Catholic School, located on the outskirts of Bahir Dar. The school serves 500 students in grades K-8. Working side by side with seasoned teachers, Mr. Smith will help teach English. He will also assist in engaging students in afterschool activities, such as soccer.

Although this is Mr. Smith’s first time traveling abroad, he has long embodied the College’s mission of service. He currently visits veterans each week at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. A history and economics major, Mr. Smith credits his love of history as part of why he enjoys hearing the veterans’ stories. “There aren’t enough people to hear them,” he said.

Mr. Williams, a former AmeriCorps volunteer based in Washington, D.C., has also been deeply involved in affecting positive change in areas of need. A native of Tupelo, Mississippi, Mr. Williams said his volunteer work heightened his awareness of underprivileged communities. He will be working in Jimma, Ethiopia, a region known for its rolling hills and extraordinary coffee, at the St. Peter and Paul Catholic School. Like Mr. Smith, Mr. Williams will help teach English and work on developing afterschool programs.

“I’m looking forward to spending six weeks helping people who need it most,” he said. The business major wants to one day work in hospital administration helping low-income communities.

About the University of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the University of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational, and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for lives of achievement, professional accomplishment and leadership in the 21st century.