Allegheny gives back at annual rummage sale

As students wrap up the spring semester, turn in their final assignments, take their final exams, and hurriedly pack up all of their belongings, garbage bins and dumpsters all across campus will fill with the remains of dorm life –– a wide variety of everyday items no longer wanted or needed. This is where Gators Give Back (GGB)’s Rummage Sale comes in, connecting spring cleaning with a great cause.

Three years ago, a service–learning EL Trip traveled to Managua, Nicaragua where they encountered Project Chacocente and its mission to help the poorest of the poor to reestablish themselves. The Project’s official website, http://www.outofthedump.org, states that ‘The Managua dump is home to about 175 families.

Another 1,000–2,000 people arrive daily to look for food to eat and recyclable materials they can sell. The families live in and around the smoldering garbage in shacks consisting of corrugated tin, cardboard and black plastic.’

This is not the type of existence that any human being deserves, which is why Project Chacocente Executive Director Cheryl Avery started Project Chacocente. The program takes families from the dump and helps them to transform their lives by providing them with the land, skills, education, and hope to survive independently.

“When people hear about what we do, they are immediately drawn to help in some way, because they can see no one else is doing what we do,” said Avery. “Ours is a holistic ministry that aims at transforming entire lives –– both the adults and the children’s.  We don’t just feed children and leave them in the same hellhole where we found them.”

Avery went on to explain that her long-term goal for Chacocente is two–fold. It not only works to raise people physically and emotionally out of life in the dump, giving them the life skills and materials to participate successfully in their own society, but also allows people to “get close and personal with the poorest of the poor, and challenge the dark places within themselves.”
The project’s ability to affect those working with poor has definitely been experienced by Marin Ping, ’10, who went on the first-ever EL trip to Nicaragua in 2007 and continues to work with GGB and the other students who have been immersed in the experience.

“For a ‘first world’ youth to experience first-hand extreme poverty is an experience which affects perspective,” said Ping. “Instead of becoming an individual who wants to deliver unto these individuals first world comforts and opportunities, Project Chacocente and other Nicaraguan NGOs have taught me that that which is most important is the empowerment of these individuals to affect change within their own lives and communities.”

Since the first Allegheny EL trip to Nicaragua, the students and staff involved have become invested in furthering relations with Project Chacocente.  The goal has become for the college to create a long-term presence in Nicaragua and to continue working with the project.

On the May 2007 trip, the group learned a lot about the project and its goals and came back looking for ways to further involve the school in this cause. This year’s trip will also be a service-learning trip with a health-specific focus.
“We did the first trip and realized through that experience that one of the biggest issues facing the people who are at the project and the Nicaraguan community in general-the underserved community-are health issues,” said Michaeline Shuman, Director of Career Services and an advisor for the EL trip.  “We thought, why don’t we do this again with a health focus?”

Inspiration for helping also came from considering people’s own lives.
“The students saw all of the stuff that gets thrown out at the end of the year, just thrown in the dump and thought-what if we gathered all of that up, sell it, and send the proceeds to the project?” Shuman said.

This marked the beginning of the GGB Rummage Sale. Since its inspired beginning two years ago, the sale has become increasingly organized and far-reaching. While the a majority of the proceeds from the sale are sent directly to Project Chacocente, the rest are given to Stone Church to be distributed to local aid organizations as the church sees fit. In addition, all items that aren’t sold at the Rummage Sale are given away to various other organizations and causes where they can be utilized.

“What I like best is that we save items from going to a dumpster-stuff that would end up going to a dump like the one in Managua-and it is being reclaimed and providing something useful for anybody,” Shuman said. “The proceeds benefit this amazing community in Nicaragua where we have a nice partnership.”

This year, the Rummage Sale will take place May 14 and 15 at Stone Church located in Diamond Park. Donated items include (but are not limited to): books and school supplies, lightly used clothing, house accessories (lamps, curtains, posters, etc.), unopened, nonperishable food products (cans especially), unopened toiletries, refrigerators, microwaves, and futons/couches. There are donation boxes in each residence hall on campus and if you have an item which is too big to leave in the box or that you need help moving, or if you live off of campus and would like to arrange an item pick-up, please contact Marin Ping  at [email protected] Finally, if you are around on May 14 and 15, stop by Stone Church to further support the GGB Rummage Sale and Project Chacocente.