Colleen Hosler, a Case Western Reserve University second-year sociology major from Pittsburgh, is busy packing her suitcase with "hoodies" and candy. She will be a Santa bringing gifts to orphans in Dmitrov, Russia, during the Russian Orthodox Christmas.
She plans to spend 10 days over winter break with disabled children who have no homes for the holidays.
"This will be a life-changing experience," predicts Hosler, who wants to be a social worker.
Dmitrov is about two hours north of Moscow, where she will have two days of sightseeing before coming home.
Besides a vacation in Hawaii, she says this will be the farthest trip from home she has taken.
Hosler's trip has received support from campus. As a member of the Global Ethical Leaders Society (GELS) at the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence, she received a $1,000 grant towards her travel expenses. She has also received support from the CWRU United Protestant Campus Ministries, St. Paul's Episcopal Church and Church of the Savior UMC.
"Colleen, as a GELS member, is committed to developing herself as an ethical leader and as a responsible global citizen," says Inamori Center Director Shannon French. After Colleen returns in January, she will give a presentation on behalf of GELS.
The orphanage Hosler will stay at is home to 150 children between the ages of 5 and 18. All children there have physical or mental disabilities of varying severity.
According to Hosler, many children have been placed in the orphanage because families cannot care for them or as the result of cultural views about special needs people. She says the children receive little education and need the additional attention from volunteers.
Approximately 50 children will spend the holiday with their families, but the other 70 children will receive attention from eight volunteers, like Hosler, who will make their home at the orphanage, entertain and eat meals with the children, and do special projects to enhance the facilities.
"We plan to take the children to McDonald's. It's a place they love," says Hosler.
She has been looking forward to the trip since learning about it during Orientation.
As an Orientation leader who introduced first-year students to campus opportunities during the annual scavenger hunt, Hosler heard the new executive director of CWRU's United Protestant Campus Ministry, Rev. Donna Hughes-Hargraves, talk about mission opportunities and encourage students to participate in the Russia trip. The Youngstown State University United Protestant Campus Ministry also sponsors this mission.
Hughes-Hargraves, a Methodist minister, says she hopes to organize campus missions during breaks—especially spring breaks, such as a trip being co-planned and co-organized with CCEL to Nicaragua to help an eco-friendly village build a computer lab and also work with the village children.
Hughes-Hargraves captured Hosler's interest. When she returns, Hosler plans to help as a student mission coordinator.
"I love working with children," she says.
Hosler has babysat, volunteered at her church and helped students with some special needs during middle school.
"These children are the sweetest people, who many times get overlooked by others."
In addition to this mission work, Hosler is active as a tour guide and newly-elected vice president and member of the CWRU PanHel Executive Board.
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