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HANDS reaches Saint Mary’s

Jillian Barwick | Monday, October 8, 2012

Four years after it was conceived in South Bend, HANDS, a non-profit organization that provides yearlong volunteer opportunities with the goal of high social impact, continues to offer Saint Mary’s students the chance to assist Central American countries.

Three Notre Dame students from Guatemala created HANDS in the summer of 2008. Maria Bosch, Stephanie Hurst and Mariana Diaz sought a way to make a difference in their country where poverty is a huge threat.

The organization “creates alliances with organizations focused on sustainable development that assist economically distressed communities in Central America,” according to the HANDS website.

According to the website, staff members at HANDS work year-round to “ensure a dynamic placement of volunteers that is in line with the interests of the volunteer and one that will integrate smoothly with the developing goals of the participating organization.”

Meghan Lefeld, a junior at Saint Mary’s, is the HANDS volunteer recruiter for the College.

“I volunteered abroad last fall break for HANDS,” Lefeld said. “I traveled with three other girls from Notre Dame and it was an experience of a lifetime.”

Lefeld and the other students lived together with a host family in Antigua, Guatemala, and helped build a house for a low-income family.

“I was involved in the housing and community development part when I stayed in Guatemala,” Lefeld said. “It was hard work, but so much fun at the same time.”

As a volunteer recruiter, Lefeld said she informs Saint Mary’s students about the organization and encourages them to get involved with the non-profit.

“HANDS gives Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame students the opportunity to help people in need in the areas of education, housing and community development,” she said. “This is a chance for students to make a real difference in developing countries.”

While Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s are currently the only schools involved with HANDS, the organization hopes to reach out to other universities in the future.

According to its website, “each month, the number of volunteers, projects and organizations supported by HANDS continues to rise, strengthening its effort and dedication to promoting social responsibility and action among youth around the world.”

HANDS currently boasts 180 volunteers and supports 18 projects and 12 organizations, according to the organization’s website.

“HANDS is available for students to volunteer over all breaks and they can apply on the website for volunteer work as well,” Lefeld said.

Job and internship opportunities with HANDS can be found at www.handsorganization.org.