Tiffany Mushrush Mentzer ’03 is the Director of Alumnae Relations and Development Specialist at Ursuline College.
What is your connection to the H.E.L.P. Malawi organization?
Back in 2009, I received a mailer from the H.E.L.P. organization and thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for Ursuline College to become a part of. It took a good year to produce a full plan, but the H.E.L.P./Ursuline Sewing Project was created. The UC fashion department graciously donated sewing machines and tons of notions to the cause. In 2010, myself, Dr. Connie Korosec and Anne-Marie Gurko headed over to Malawi to begin the sewing project. The first trip was a jam packed 10 days full of ideas, set-up, creating lesson plans, teaching children and adults and even hosting an all-day mending day to fix the children’s clothing who were students at Nanthomba. The trip was an extremely successful and the team at H.E.L.P. Malawi said it was their most successful volunteer trip to date.
Why is the partnership with Ursuline and HELP important to you?
When I first heard about the H.E.L.P. organization I was very intrigued by their work and how not only did the organization and Wolstein family help this community, but the Malawian community itself was so very invested in the projects. Once I began working with the group, I soon loved the work I was doing as well as what Ursuline was doing for the organization. It is an organization that is truly near and dear to my heart now. It is hard not to forget the faces of the children you come into contact with while you are there. On my second visit, I thought there would be no way they would remember me, but when I arrived at Nanthomba School the many children I taught were yelling my name and running up to greet me. It was extremely overwhelming to know how much what we did meant to them.
What was your first impression of Africa and what are you looking forward to on this trip?
My sister had traveled to Mozambique, which is located right next to Malawi, so I tried to get an idea from her on her travels, but I knew that no matter how much information I had ahead of time, I would be completely in awe of the sights, sounds, tastes, feelings I would have in Malawi. I was raised in Chagrin Falls, so being in a place link Malawi, was extremely eye-opening. I learned so much about myself on the trips. I am really looking forward to the upcoming trip to see the sewing project continue and grow. My real excitement is going to be watching the 4 students who are going on the journey. None of them have been to Africa before and one of them has never been on a plane. This is experience changed my life and I know it will do the same for them. I can’t wait to watch their journey.
What are your thoughts on Molly, Rhianna, Maggie and Taylor?
To be completely honest with you, I could not have hand-picked a better group of students to travel to Malawi with me. Each student is studying a different degree; nursing, education, art and psychology so the trip will be different for each one of them. I am very encouraged by their eagerness to know as much as they can before we travel and be open to the experiences we will have on the trip. After my fist trip to Malawi, now I just tell people who are going for the first time to be completely open, so you can take in all of the wonderful opportunities Malawi, the “warm-heart of Africa” has to share with you!