Close to Heart and Home

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Spring Break 2012, Bolivia! 141 resized 600

In 2009, Esteban Saldi boarded a plane and traveled approximately 6,500 miles to Waynesburg, Pa., with a plan. Saldi, a Waynesburg University sophomore at the time, never imagined that just three years later his plan would actually become a reality.

A 2012 human services alumnus, Saldi recently led a Waynesburg University mission service trip to his native La Paz, Bolivia. This past March, Saldi, joined by Dave Calvario, director of the Center for Service Leadership at Waynesburg University, and six additional Waynesburg students, strengthened his personal partnership with Samaritan's Purse when he returned home to work on a project close to his heart.

For more than 40 years, Samaritan's Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization, has worked to bring assistance in the name of Jesus Christ to those hurting around the world. Inspired by the organization's mission and after his work on a well digging project during the summer of his freshman year, Saldi felt called to rejoin Samaritan's Purse.

With the longing in his heart, Saldi approached Dave Calvario, dean of students and director of the Center for Service Leadership, to discuss the possibility of a university trip. During their spring break this past March, Calvario, Saldi, and six other Waynesburg University students created a University “first” while breathing life into Saldi's 3-year-old dream.

Partnering with Samaritan's Purse for the first time, the mission service team was given the opportunity to directly connect faith, learning and serving while making a difference in a fellow classmate's native country. Saldi's mentor and peers came away from the trip humbled by the experience.

“Most of us take for granted on a daily basis that, when I turn on a faucet in America, clean drinkable water will come out,” Calvario said. “This is not the case in many countries.”

The experience was all that Saldi had hoped for, and at times, he said, seemed dreamlike.

“At moments it seemed unreal that Waynesburg students were having lunch at my house and spending time with my family,” he said.

Saldi, according to Calvario, added to the richness of the trip, Calvario said.

Also a Bonner Scholar, Saldi, spent more than 140 hours each semester serving others while personifying the mission of Waynesburg. Through his Waynesburg University mission service trip experiences and his work with Habitat for Humanity, St. Ann's Soup Kitchen and World Vision, his focus in life developed and changed.

“Service has become more than just volunteer work, it is a lifestyle,” Saldi said. “I serve not only because of the abilities I have, but because of the needs of the people around me.”

Described as a quiet, shy individual as a freshman, Calvario said he knew the University had gained “a diamond in the rough.”

“During his time at Waynesburg and being part of the Bonner Scholar Program, I witnessed a tremendous amount of growth in Esteban. He has truly become a servant leader,” Calvario said.

To describe Saldi and the depth of his kindheartedness, Calvario summarizes Luke 5: 12-13, where Jesus, filled with compassion, reaches out His hand, touches a man with leprosy and immediately the leprosy leaves the man.

“I have witnessed Esteban time and time again filled with compassion, reaching out his hand to help and love others,” Calvario said.

Saldi's willingness to take action and his desire to make a difference would eventually bring about Saldi's involvement in eight mission service trips, both domestic and international, through his eight semesters at Waynesburg University. Placing substantial meaning on the phrase, “saving the best for last,” Saldi's undergraduate career culminated with perhaps one of his most memorable service experiences to date.

Above all, Saldi recognizes the role faith and service has played in his growth. He plans to further expand that growth through his position as a Work Site Liaison for the Pittsburgh Project.

Saldi's personal commitment to making a difference has left a profound impact on Waynesburg University.

“Esteban has truly left his fingerprints at Waynesburg University and around the globe,” Calvario said.