Niagara University alum takes a unique path after graduation
Dear fellow Niagarans,
My name is Mike Daloia, and I'm one of Niagara's most recent graduates (May 2009). I was very active while at NU as a student, dividing most of my free time outside of my scholarly pursuits in history and religious studies among various fine clubs and activities, including NU Ski Club, NUCAP, Residence Life, various honor societies, and advisory councils. I was involved with Campus Ministry related organizations such as the SVDP society and retreat team, a CARE staff member during those lazy summer months away from NU, and a life-long brother in Delta Chi Epsilon, just to name a few. These groups, no doubt, all helped me at NU to thrive and graduate with many recognitions and honors, my proudest being that of receiving the Niagara Medal.
Now, enough about me while I was at Niagara. What am I doing now after graduating? Well, life, as we all know, can be pretty funny at times, and if you had asked me this question just a few short months ago, the answer would certainly have not been this. Today, as I write to you I find myself living in poverty among indigenous people high up in the mountains and jungles of the Republic of Panama. Actually, by the time you read this letter, I will have been here in the jungle for a month!
For the past month I have been working with a variety of organizations, including MEDO, Semillas de Esperanza, MITA, the PeaceCorp, and of course, my favorite, the Vincentians. My most recent activities have included infrastructure improvements to the volunteer house where I stay, teaching English to primary school teachers, building water collection systems, mapping out and designing a memorial garden, and, doing cultural exchanges with my host family!
My hope is in the future to write you all in more depth about the poverty, injustices, and fights of the native GnÃ¶be people. This week's letter is just an introduction to where life has taken me after graduation. As a snapshot, the comarca region has a 97 percent poverty rate. There is very little clean water to drink, most people live in towns reminiscent of the ¨Hoovervilles¨ from the Great Depression, and the educational system is not even close to being remotely sub-par system compared to even the Niagara Falls. Yet, on top of all this, a flood last November devastated communities along the Fonseca River, taking away roads, houses, bridges, and lives, including that of the eldest son of my host family (to whom the future memorial garden will be dedicated).
Life is tough. There are few latrines to be used, showers are almost non-existent, and the food consists of basically rice, beans, and occasionally Yucca, Plantains, fruit, potatoes, chicken or fish tossed in the mix. Compared to most houses around here, I live in a mansion, having four full walls, a door, a bed, a tin roof, and a table for my things, yet I still share my room with lizards, spiders, and various other insects I have yet to identify. This is my current situation, and so it shall remain, until I return home to the States on Nov. 23.
I am very thankful for all the support I've received from my friends, family, and NU community as I partake in this service experience. I would of course like to give special thanks to Campus Ministry for helping me to arrange this opportunity (thanks again Monica Saltarelli). I would also like to thank NUCAP and the College of Arts and Sciences for standing behind me, and especially my friends from NU, and those of my friends that have become my family over the past four years, including all my fellow Delta Chi Epsilon brothers. Without all your support this service opportunity would certainly have not happened.
Until my next letter, feel free to send me e-mails with any questions or thoughts you may have about life here and what I am doing in Panama. I always appreciate hearing from home, and if you are more interested in my home, please check out the following Web sites: :http://medo.awardspace.com/ and http://ngobemission.googlepages.com/
Best of luck this year at Niagara, and I look forward to seeing you all upon my return!