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College sophomore Brigid Byrnes works with several local workers in Mozambique, flattening the ground and laying stones to prepare a building’s foundation. She, along with three other students, traveled to Africa on a Nourish International trip last summer.

Credit: Courtesy of Jean Lin

As many Penn students envision their summers to include relaxing vacations and prestigious internships, others are planning a more charitable way to spend their time.

Three Penn students will travel to the shantytown of William Galeano, Nicaragua this summer as part of an initiative developed by the Penn chapter of Nourish International.

A student-run organization, Nourish International strives to “eradicate poverty by engaging students and empowering local communities,” said Sarah Miller, the chapter coordinator at Nourish’s National Office.

Since Nourish’s founding at Penn in 2009, Penn students have traveled to Uganda and Mozambique, where they have partnered with local organizations in order to make changes in underdeveloped communities.

“The Penn chapter is really growing,” said Miller. “It is poised to implement a really great project this year as it has been more profitable than ever before.”

About $1,300 have been raised so far to fund this summer’s project through efforts such as bake sales and open bar nights. The goal is to reach $2,000 by the end of the school year.

In 2003, Sindhura Citineni, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, started a project called Hunger Lunch, in which she sold rice, beans and corn breadin order to raise awareness about world hunger and fund a nutrition initiative in India.

The success of Citineni’s project led to the creation of Nourish International. Today the organization has spread to 24 campuses nationwide.

Three students from Wake Forest University will join the Penn students traveling to William Galeano. They will all be working alongside the local Nicaraguan organization, Atraves, in order to implement changes in the community.

“There are substantial health and socioeconomic issues in this community,” said College junior Nitha Saju, one of Penn Nourish’s International project directors. “The people have limited access to health care and education and most make less than two dollars a day.”

The six students will help out in the existing health clinic in William Galeano, and they plan to build a computer lab as an extension of the clinic.

“There aren’t many health resources in the community for people to refer to,” Saju said. “The computer lab will help the community become more knowledgeable about how to improve their own health.”

The students will also develop a basic hygiene and nutrition curriculum for the local school.

“We take this knowledge for granted,” chapter leader and College sophomore Jean Lim said. “Teaching basic hygiene will help improve these peoples’ lives.”

The prospect of being able to work in an underdeveloped health clinic and gain medical insight was part of what attracted College freshman Randall Tassone to join the trip.

“The idea of going to a third world country to work in a clinic will be invaluable,” Tassone said. “You know that what you are doing is going to change someone’s life.”

Nourish International prides itself on engaging and working with the local community to create changes that will have lasting impact.

“Nourish is about helping the community help themselves,” Saju said.

Lim added, “We believe in sustainable and long term development. Our hope is that the community will be able to use the knowledge and resources we bring even after we have left.”

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