San Diego University Volunteers

Posted February 23, 2011 @ 11:34pm | by Comunidad

Jesann Spani and Claudiu Anton came to Comunidad as a last minute gift from heaven, I suppose.  They were slated for another volunteer expedition in Central America that fell through.  They came to Peru certain that I would find a project with Comunidad.  I was not so certain, however.  What unfolded was magic, of course.  Below please find the story printed in the Thursday, January 27, 2011 school newspaper, The Daily Aztec.

SDSU senior lends a hand to schools in Peru
Jesann Spani embodies the Aztec spirit of combining education and charitable work

MIRANDS ADLER, staff writer


Imagine washing your face with Purell hand sanitizer, showering with baby wipes and falling asleep with cement-caked fingernails.  No, this isn't an episode of "Survivor".  This is just one of the many occurrences San Diego State senior Jesann Spani has experienced during her numerous volunteer adventures.  What drives Spani to push her personal limits solely in the name of helping others? "Sometimes I feel like, why should I get all these opportunities?" Spani said.  "I don't think it's fair."

That attitude has been instilled in Spani since her childhood in Seattle; her parents frequently donated to local charities, sponsored less fortunate families and helped at food banks.  Throughout high school, Spani served as a volunteer officer, utilizing her school's large population to help the community. Spani recognized that many young adults don't contribute because they think only monetary donations make a difference, so she got creative.  Spani organized a toy drive for the Seattle Children's Hospital in honor of a classmate's sister and a canned food drive that allowed students to receive extra credit.

"I like to organize and it comes naturally to delegate," Spani said.  "Those experiences reaffirmed the fact that I could make a difference on a small scale."

Before leaving for college, Spani was working as an intern where she became interested in microlending.  She learned about how small loans support local entrepeneurs and encourage ideas for clientts who have trouble receiving bank loans based on income or credit history.  Helping others stayed on her mind as she enrolled in SDSU and became involved with Aztec Volunteers and served as the Greek Week community service liaison for her sorority.

Spani's biggest endeavor so far has been her internship last summer.  Spani and her boyfriend Claudiu Anton got in touch with Pamela Hoff and Melanie Ebertz, two sisters who started an organization called Comunidad, to reach out to a rural Peruvian community.  Spani knew Comunidad was focused on education and nutrition, so she decided to start collecting supplies for the trip.  Through sending letters and hosting a restaurant fundraiser, Spani and Anton raised more than $4,000 and headed to Peru with 12 suitcases full of books, school supplies, sports balls and water purification tools.

Hoff said she didn't know what specific project Spani and Anton would find in the village.  The group toured the three schools in the village and after seeing the dismal and unsanitary condition of the kitchens, Spani knew she had found her purpose.

"There were holes in the walls, bug nets and water from the Porta-Potties running through the kitchens," Spani said.  "The smoke from the wood stoves was making the teachers and students cough, too.

For the next week, Spani, Anton, Hoff and some of the community members took the three-hour van ride to the supply store multiple times and began cementing floors, putting stucco on walls and installing new gas stoves and propane tanks.  Spani and her team also set up a scholarship fund for students who plan on continuing their education in bigger cities, also sponsoring a "senior trip" to Machu Picchu, a sacred place to the Inca in Peru.

"Jesann and Claudiu are my heroes," Hoff said.

Spani hopes to start

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