GW Squash senior Jackie Shea has been named the GW Department of Athletics & Recreation Community Service Student-Athlete of the Month for January.
"Over winter break, Jackie spent four weeks in an orphanage in Tanzania working with a group of social workers in caring for over 120 children as part of the Rift Valley Children's Village," said GW LifeSkills Coordinator Ted Costigan. "Her actions demonstrate the wide reach and impact of GW student-athletes and a devotion to service."
Shea took the time normally reserved for rest and relaxation to take a transatlantic trip to East Africa.
"I really enjoy traveling and immersing myself in completely different cultures," said Shea. "I actually learned about the Rift Valley Children's Village through a GW graduate who used to be a member of the sailing team. I looked into it and decided it would be a wonderful opportunity."
The trip was anything but a vacation as Shea was tasked with caring for 17 girls who ranged in ages from 2-18 years old.
"I woke up at 6 a.m. every day to begin caring for the girls," said Shea. "I would assist the Tanzanian house mamas in cooking meals, bathing the younger girls, giving them vitamins and medicines, helping them get dressed, making sure they did their chores. I also taught the preschool class by myself. Throughout the day I supervised different activities and would sometimes take older children on long walks for a special treat to get off campus. I got to play tooth fairy and, since I was there during the holidays, Santa. I also organized activities such as coloring, arts and crafts, baking, volleyball and soccer games, reading stories and doing puzzles."
"What impacted me the most was seeing how happy the children at the village are," she said. "All of them had heartbreaking stories and very difficult pasts. Yet, with over a hundred children they have formed a very close community. The older children take care of the younger ones and there is a lot of support for anyone having a bad day. They didn't have many of the things that we do such as internet, unlimited electricity, unlimited hot water, easily accessible clean drinking water, heating and air conditioning, and so much more. A new pair of shoes, a book or even pajamas was incredibly appreciated. I will never forget the countless smiles I saw on Christmas. So although these children have next to nothing in their name and very difficult pasts, they were incredibly grateful, warm, loving and happy children. I definitely learned to appreciate everything that has been given to me so much more."
"I really believe that no other university comes close to GW in terms of the opportunities surrounding us, but with that comes a greater responsibility to give back to the same community that offers us so much," said Shea. "Although my experience was a bit unique and required traveling far outside of this community, I hope it inspires others to realize how many opportunities are within our reach. In order to be valuable members of this community, we must not only take advantage of these opportunities, but also give others opportunities they may otherwise not have without us."