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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.

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Year in and year out,Waynesburg University students learn the importance of assisting those in need. During their fall, winter and spring breaks, students have the opportunity to travel the world to serve others, living out the mission of Waynesburg and spreading the love of God. While most students visit foreign territories, one student is returning to his native land.

Esteban Saldi, a senior human services major from La Paz, Bolivia, will travel with Dave Calvario, dean of students and director of the Center for Service Leadership, and six additional students to Caquiaviri, Bolivia during spring break. This is the first time Waynesburg students have visited the South American country.

“The aspect of this trip that excites me the most is that we are going to Esteban's home country,” Calvario said. “This has been a trip he and I have talked about for more than three years and it has finally come together.”
At the end of his freshman year, Saldi worked in a well digging project through Samaritan's Purse. The inspiration for the trip to Bolivia came from this partnership and working to bring water to rural communities.

This is the first time Waynesburg University is partnering with Samaritan's Purse for a service trip. For more than 40 years, Samaritan's Purse has worked to bring assistance in the name of Jesus Christ to those hurting around the world. Through various projects, they reach out to suffering children, disaster areas, disease and famine victims. They provide first class medical service as well as supplying mission hospitals with much needed equipment and supplies.

Calvario anticipates the experience of the burgeoning partnership and helping others receive clean water.

“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. Partnering with a Christian organization like Samaritan's Purse will allow us further our University's goal to connect faith, learning and serving.”

Saldi is excited to show his peers and Calvario his home, where he spent his childhood, as well as allow them to see his culture. Although they have a lot of work to complete, time will be reserved for Saldi to take them around his country.

“What I would enjoy the most is being able to share the experience with other students as they get to be in my country and learn new things from my culture,” Saldi said. “I am happy to share any information I can in order to educate people about my country.”

Additionally, 84 students will serve on three other trips during break. Fourteen will travel to the Florida Springs Institute to reintroduce a plant species vital to the manatee habitat. Traveling to Belize, 13 students will assist in tutoring and construction. Continuing an established partnership, 36 will spend a week working with the Pittsburgh Project. Twenty-one will assist the Lake Norman Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Concord, N.C.

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Every semester, students live out Waynesburg University's mission of faith, learning and serving, whether they travel to serve in a Third World country or at home in Pennsylvania. Some students even choose to spend time that could be spent with friends at home to serve over fall or winter breaks. In December 2011, 10 Waynesburg University students served in Greene County, Pa. through the University's annual Greene County Immersion mission service trip.

Before the trip, the students were educated in four major social issues that currently affect those living in Greene County: poverty, homelessness, hunger and education. During the trip, the students assisted several local organizations including the Corner Cupboard Food Bank, the Salvation Army, St. Ann's Good Neighbors Dinner and Produce to People.

Each day began with breakfast and devotions in the Prayer Chapel on the campus of Waynesburg University. From there, the students served at a different organization each day and late into the evening.

Kelley Hardie, assistant director of Student Activities at Waynesburg University and leader of the Greene County Immersion trip, says it was rewarding to experience serving her neighbors in Greene County.

“It was great to see how much hard work, effort and energy each person contributed in making amazing things possible,” said Hardie. “By ringing bells at Wal-Mart and Giant Eagle, we were able to raise over $1600 for the Salvation Army in four hours.”

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