By TARA GREENWOOD
Under the project name ?Wave of Hope,? a group of BYU students are dedicating their time and energy this summer to help rebuild the lives of Thailand?s tsunami victims.
Starting Sunday, Empowering Nations, a non-profit organization, will send teams to Thailand to work with local organizations such as women?s groups, churches and orphanages from May to August.
Sarah Carmicheal, a graduate student in charge of Empowering Nations fundraising said they plan to aid the organizations that have been there for four months already.
?We?re hoping that we?re going to help with the reconstruction effort,? she said. ?At a deeper level we?re providing release.”
The project involves organizing committees, teaching communication skills and creating advertising aimed at fundraising and recruitment for the tsunami project.
?We are laboring to build a kind of Mormon Peace Corps to improve the quality of life for people in the Third World,? project leader Warner Woodworth said.
Woodworth is also the professor for the academic course, Organizational Behavior 490, ?Becoming a Global Change Agent/Social Entrepreneur,? the center for the project?s activities. The class works under the oversight of Empowering Nations.
Mike Poelman, a senior, majoring in English, founded Empowering Nations last year with the help of four other BYU students. They said their goal is to use volunteers to bring economic development to countries in need.
Empowering Nations improved the poverty situation in areas such as Somalia and Brazil, but was at a standstill before Woodworth proposed the ?Wave of Hope? project to Poelman. In his course syllabus, Woodworth said the motivation behind the project is to ?become social entrepreneurs while building a movement to transform the world by empowering the poor.?
Poelman said he is very enthusiastic about Woodworth?s proposal.
?I don?t have any regrets because there are huge needs and we are trying to make a difference in a small way,? Poelman said.
Woodworth said he is confident about the project and the abilities of the students. He has headed several similar projects in Latin America, Africa and Honduras. He said he has brought the lessons and inspiration from those projects to the tsunami project.
Woodworth said although the students are very capable, his experiences have taught him that safety should be a high priority.
?We have taken several measures to insure safety, and I have very little fears,? he said.
The group meets every Thursday night to recruit and inform potential volunteers and has planned several fundraising activities.
Carmicheal said they are currently asking big businesses to get involved, but smaller donations are also welcome.
The outcome of the project is worth the work, Carmicheal said.
?It has made it real and made me feel that I am working towards something that matters,? she said. ?Instead of talking about the problems and issues we are actually doing it. It has taken a lot of hard work, organization and sacrifice throughout the semester, but knowing that what we are doing is going to help the people who are suffering makes it worth while.?
Lauren Nelson, a class member and volunteer, said she is also enthusiastic about ?Wave of Hope.? She said her interest in international development began after her experiences abroad.
?I learned that in these parts of the world a minority have food on their table everyday,? she said.
With this project she said she feels she has the opportunity to make an impact.
?It?s like a mission, even if you don?t baptize,? she said.
Poelman said even if volunteers do not volunteer abroad again later on in life, they will remember their experience and contribute financially.
?Every single student who gets down there is going to remember what they did later on in their life,? he said.
Stanford, Harvard, the University of Utah, Utah Valley State College and volunteers from local high schools are also participating in ?Wave of Hope.? Woodworth said the program is open to anyone wishing to participate.