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Transforming the World through Service

Service to others is an integral part of the Notre Dame mission

Service to our community has always been an integral part of a Notre Dame education, a practice rooted in our Catholic tradition. Our Notre Dame mission calls on us to build inclusive communities, to engage in service to others and to promote social responsibility.

But what impact can a group of students really have in the community? Added together, it is considerable.

Last academic year, 1,400 members of the Notre Dame community, including students, faculty and staff, devoted more than 104,600 hours to service activities. Given that non-profit experts have estimated the value of a volunteer hour at $22.14, the economic impact of Notre Dame’s service to the Baltimore community is $2.3 million for that year.

Service is integrated in Notre Dame’s educational programs at every level. In September, more than 200 students, faculty and staff boarded buses and traveled downtown to the Baltimore Convention Center to volunteer for the United Way of Central Maryland's Project Homeless Connect, which helped link Baltimore homeless community to vital services. Notre Dame had by far the best turnout of any of the local colleges that participated.

Notre Dame President Joan Develin Coley was among the dignitaries who addressed the volunteers before the event began.

"In some sense we might think it is a sacrifice to be here, but it is no exaggeration to say that we always gain more than we give when we extend a helping hand to another human being," Dr. Coley said. "The presence of so many people here today says something important about the homeless clients we will encounter. It says that they matter and that we value them."

In our School of Pharmacy, all students participate in service projects through the Advocaring Program. Advocaring places groups of 12 students in local agencies such as ARC of Baltimore, Our Daily Bread soup kitchen, Gilchrist Hospice and St. Jerome’s Head Start.  

When asked about their experiences, one student’s comment succinctly summed up not only Advocaring, but also the University’s strong commitment to serve those in need: “I was able to play with children in my Advocaring group and meet the wonderful teachers completely dedicated to them. The look in those children’s eyes when we had a health fair geared toward them is something I will never forget. They felt important and they were eager to participate because we were not talking to their parents, we were talking to them.”

Notre Dame also offers several international service opportunities. For example, twice a year 10 students embark on a two-week trip to the village of San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, where they have home stays and do service. They help out at the Montessori parish school, work at a reforestation project, help build homes and observe the ins and outs of this integral development project.

But the Notre Dame service component is even larger. Each year the group brings back 12 suitcases of Guatemalan crafts purchased from women’s co-ops that are then sold to the University community and at churches. Proceeds are used to defray the cost of the trip for the next group of students going to Guatemala. The new group of students fills these 12 suitcases up with medical supplies, children's clothing and school supplies, which they take down to San Lucas on their next service trip, thus perpetuating the cycle of help to San Lucas.

Through their service experiences, Notre Dame students are able to engage on a personal level vulnerable and underserved people, and learn that through serving others, we can truly transform the world.