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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Science
July 31, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

Laurier students work their muscles constructing classrooms for an orphanage in Honduras.
Laurier students work their muscles constructing classrooms for an orphanage in Honduras.

Headlines (Campus Updates)


Physics & Computer Science

Students Offering Support launches at universities across Canada

Laurier student spends his final term expanding the national organization

Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Sep 23/08

It’s not easy spending the last two weeks of your vacation before school starts working on a construction project in a remote village in Central America. When Laurier alumnus Greg Overholt asks participants what they thought about their humanitarian experience, he often receives one of two answers:

“I loved it! I can’t wait to do it again,” or “I loved it! But I don’t see going again anytime soon.”

“Even though some are not prepared for a return visit, everyone loves the experience it gives them,” says Overholt. “And that is our goal, to create globally aware citizens.”

Overholt is the founder of Students Offering Support (SOS), a student-run charity that supports development projects in impoverished areas of the world and organizes annual trips so volunteers can help with the construction.

This year Laurier SOS raised $35,000, money that went toward building two additional classrooms, a library and an irrigation system for an orphanage in Honduras. The rooms were also equipped with solar power, enabling the 65 orphan boys who reside there to work and study in the evening. The extra space has also allowed for more children from the area to attend school.

“Eighteen Laurier students travelled at their own expense to help lay bricks and mix cement so children could acquire an education, something we take for granted,” says Overholt. “Trips like this are so beneficial; an eye-opening experience that changes peoples’ perspectives.”

SOS raises money through their “Exam-AID” tutoring initiative. For a donation of $20, students can attend an SOS tutoring session led by “A” student volunteers who help their peers study for exams. Overholt started the tutoring program in 2004, as part of a business and computing students club. Its rapid success soon led to the creation of SOS.

Now, after tutoring over 2,500 students and raising over $140,000, 10 other universities across Canada are launching their own SOS chapters, too.

Overholt, who recently graduated from Laurier with a business and computer science double degree, spent his final term expanding the SOS program into a national charitable non-profit organization. He is now the director of Students Offering Support, and oversees the growth of all 11 SOS chapters with hopes of expanding to even more universities in North America in the future.

He works to achieve not only the sustainability of the SOS organization but also to make sure the development projects they support are sustainable.

This is a philosophy that integrated well with Laurier’s CMA Centre for Responsible Organizations. Barry Colbert, Laurier professor and director for the CMA Centre, supported and supervised SOS volunteers Kevin Andrew and Nicole Morino while they researched effective ways of achieving sustainable infrastructure in a directed studies course. They found the best use of the money, devised the project and left the school in Honduras with a plan for sustainability for the future. Now Andrew is taking their research findings and presenting them to the new SOS chapters across Canada to show what they learned and how future trips can be improved.

“The directed study allowed us to apply what we have learned from our business studies to a real-life economic sustainability scenario and create a strategic plan,” says Morino. “It was a great opportunity for SOS to fully understand the needs of the organization they were supporting, allowing them to fund projects that would ultimately have the largest impact.”

For more information on Laurier SOS visit www.lauriersos.com. For more information on the national association and other SOS chapters, visit www.canadasos.org


 

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