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Students on a different mission at military base

Staff February 1, 2013 News No Comments

By Hannah Urano
Transcript Correspondent

The Fort Bragg mission trip team will be repeating their babysitting fundraiser on Valentine’s Day, watching the children of faculty and staff members so they can enjoy a romantic evening alone.

Coming off of the success of their first babysitting fundraiser in late November, the mission trip team decided to take advantage of Valentine’s Day by offering another childcare session as part of their continued effort to raise $1,700 before their trip in March.

Vinciguerra said the main reason the team offers babysitting is that it will be working with children on the base.
Assistant Chaplain Lisa Ho brought her 2 1/2-year-old twins to the November childcare session, which was held in the Crider Lounge in the Hamilton-Williams Campus Center.

According to Ho, this type of setting made her and her husband feel more comfortable leaving their children in the care of students.
“It felt like someone’s living room,” she said. “They could watch a movie on the TV, color or just run around with the other kids.”

Registrar Shelly McMahon, who brought her 4-year-old son, shared the same sentiments.

“I think the group setting with several students involved made my husband and I feel more comfortable than leaving our son with an in-home sitter,” she said. “The age of the students, their maturity level, and knowing Public Safety is just around the corner put my mind at ease.”

According to Vinciguerra, making parents, as well as children, feel comfortable was one of their main concerns.

“Not only do the faculty know us from class, but many of our team members are CPR certified, education majors or have prior experience with children,” she said. “We also take emergency contact forms from parents and pay special attention to allergies.”

Sarah Dubois, administrative assistant to the Chaplain, said her 15-month-old son had a great time while she and her husband were able to go out to dinner.

“It’s really a win-win situation; parents are able to enjoy some time to themselves while supporting a great cause,” Dubois said.

Vinciguerra said she hopes the Valentine’s Day event will draw a larger crowd. The session will be from 5-8 p.m. in the Crider Lounge and the suggested donation is $20 per child.

By Emily Hostetler
Transcript Correspodent

Ohio Wesleyan students and faculty will make history this spring break as they travel to the Fort Bragg, N.C., military base to help children whose parents are deployed.

The Fort Bragg mission trip team will be the first college group to volunteer at a military base over spring break, which has garnered national recognition from President Barack Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. The trip will serve as a pilot program for possible implementation in 250 other colleges and universities nationally.

Junior Rachel Vinciguerra, Fort Bragg mission trip team leader, proposed the idea of traveling to a military base to help children in the summer.

“The military is really distant for a lot of people, so this is a way to connect,” she said. “Part of the reason it’s a pilot program is because we aren’t sure how it’s going to work out and because it’s pretty restricted to where we can go on the base.”

While base restrictions may be an obstacle, senior Amanda Boehme, the team’s reflection leader, said the trip will focus on immersing the team in military life and culture.

“Generally, military culture isn’t portrayed the right way in the media,” Boehme said. “We aren’t just going to see soldiers; we are going to see families and experience all of their ups and downs.”

Vinciguerra said there are a few different aspects to the trip.

“We are trying to figure out where we will be most helpful … The plan is to work with kids whose parents have been deployed in Afghanistan,” she said. “There is also an interfaith component because there are lots of different chaplains on the base. There are a lot of OWU alumni in the Ft. Bragg area who also want to help.”

Chaplain Jon Powers will be one of the two faculty members traveling with the ten students on the mission team. He said the team has been meeting weekly to learn more about what they will be experiencing during the trip.

According to the mission team pamphlet, 25 percent of Ft. Bragg residents are under the age of 18. Powers said the children on the base are not deprived like the inner city where they have nothing. Because of this, the team will learn about the different faiths represented on the base, and the challenges the children face with parents who are deployed.

“Our team is focused on learning everything we can about military family life,” Powers said. “Never before in America has a group of college students gone on spring break to serve children on a military base. It’s all experimental.”
Two years ago, OWU became a founding member of the national interfaith service learning. During the White House Conference for the program over the summer, Powers was able to discuss the Ft. Bragg mission trip which kick-started the pilot program.

“It’s never been done,” he said. “They (Ft. Bragg chaplains) are excited about it but they are also saying, ‘Well gosh, we just don’t know.’ One chaplain says this is unreasonable and another chaplain says, ‘But of course we can.’”
The mission team held an American-themed luncheon last week to raise money for the trip. It also offered a babysitting service for the community, which allows team members to become more comfortable working around children.
Powers said the team wants the local community to be involved, both through alumni connections at the base and through veterans.

“As part of our fundraising, Rachel and I are sending letters to all 22 of the VFW posts in central Ohio inviting them to be part of our project even if just listing that, ‘We want to support you,’ to giving us financial aid, sending veterans over to meet with us or sending team members to meet with them after the trip,” he said.

While the team members want to help the children of military families, they are also seeking ways to better themselves.

“We are giving people on the team the opportunity to be immersed in military life and discover qualities about themselves they weren’t aware of before,” Boehme said. “Mission teams give them (team members) time to be silent, gather their thoughts and think.”

Freshman Natalie Geer, a Fortt Bragg mission team member, said she loves working with kids and hopes to learn more about the children living on the base.

“We hardly know what military life is like and the effects it has on the kids,” she said. “Living from day to day without knowing if mom and/or dad is alive or when they come home is something many people overlook.”

Junior Anthony Peddle, a Fort Bragg mission team member, lived on the Fort Bragg military base as a child.

“I can’t wait to share my experiences with the kids there and show them that even though your family isn’t always together, you’re always together in spirit,” he said.

“And that there is something bigger than this military base that is two counties big, something a lot larger and more meaningful that they’re a part of, even if they don’t realize it.”

When the team returns from Fort Bragg, all of the information collected while planning, executing and concluding the trip will be gathered and sent to the White House for an assessment of the pilot program.

“The idea is to then share this to say if we can do it–and here’s how we did it–maybe other schools can do it at other military bases,” Powers said.

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