Springfield, Ohio — Students in Wittenberg University’s Peace Corps Preparatory Program are using their skills and commitment to service to make a difference in the lives of children in the southern African nation of Lesotho.
Twelve Wittenberg students, half of them enrolled in the Peace Corps Prep program, are partnering with non-profits Pack Away Hunger and Touching Tiny Lives to feed 3,000 malnourished children in Lesotho for three years. To launch the project, Wittenberg hosted a packing event on Saturday, Nov. 14, from 3-5 p.m. at the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Center Gymnasium to prepare 60,000 meals, according to Scott Rosenberg, who is Wittenberg’s Peace Corps Prep chair and a professor of African history.
“The first five years in a child’s life are the most important for cognitive development and brain development, and kids under the age of five in Lesotho are not getting the proper nutrition,” said Rosenberg, who also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho from 1989-1991. “The impact is catastrophic. This is a long-term problem facing the nation, and if the next generation is facing cognitive problems because they are not getting proper nutrition at a young age, it is serious.”
The Wittenberg group researched several non-profits as well as countries with similar issues and chose to team up with Pack Away Hunger, an Indianapolis-based non-profit. The meals they will provide contain rice, soy and a special nutrient that contains 24 different minerals and vitamins. This is the culmination of a year-long project initiated by Wittenberg students.
Once the meals arrive in Lesotho, Touching Tiny Lives, a non-profit that works with children and families affected by HIV/AIDS in Mokhotlong (a district of Lesotho), will distribute them to the children.
Since 2003, Rosenberg has taken more than 350 Wittenberg students on month-long service trips to Lesotho, which has the highest per capita AIDS mortality rate and more than 220,000 orphans in a country of less than two million people. In the last decade, Wittenberg students have collaborated with Peace Corps volunteers, Habitat for Humanity volunteers and members of Springfield Rotary to build homes, greenhouses, playgrounds, chicken coops and more.
Isaac Cason, a fourth-year biology major at Wittenberg, is enrolled in the Peace Corps Prep Program and is currently applying to the Peace Corps. He became involved in the malnutrition project because of Rosenberg’s dedication to helping the people of Lesotho.
“Witnessing his passion for the people of Lesotho is something that is not only commendable but also quite contagious,” said Cason, a native of Columbus, Ohio. “My hope is that as a group, we are able to start a sustainable initiative that will eventually help in feeding the more than 100,000 malnourished children in Lesotho.”
More than 25 leading academic institutions nationwide offer Peace Corps Prep programs. Established in 2007, the program aims to support schools’ efforts to provide substantive, globally- focused experiences for their students while offering language, cultural and leadership skills that will make program participants more competitive for the Peace Corps. The Prep Program at Wittenberg was one of the first in the nation, launching in 2011, and now enrolls eight students.