One of the core values that Walla Walla University strives to uphold is generosity in service. Aligning with that value, it opened the Center for Humanitarian Engagement (CHE) in 2018. The CHE works to build connections with the community and connects students whose skills fill the needs of global and local organizations.
This summer, David Lopez, executive director of CHE, and his team are preparing and planning for several new projects this coming year. They are centering their goal around six definitions of service: service opportunities, service learning, service expectation, emergency response, signature project, and mentor/leadership.
“Service is more than just a word,” said Lopez. “It is an action; showing up, picking up the phone, and getting involved.”
In their goal of mentor/leadership service, the team is working closely with WWU’s honor program, to rework several classes to connect students with community service opportunities, as well as providing a service leadership training program at the beginning of the year for students involved in leadership on campus. They are also working in connection with several majors on campus, particularly engineering, to manage a Global Humanitarian Engineering Emphasis that will look at what service can be.
Another objective that the CHE carries out, service learning, will be incorporated several different ways this coming quarter, such as WWU’s Service Day event, as well as partnering with the community for cleanups. One of the modules during Jumpstart will be focused on service learning objectives, and freshmen will have the opportunity to sign up early for Service Day. This summer, the CHE has helped support local food banks, filling 200-300 cars with 50-60 lbs of food, as well as working with the National Reserves.
During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lopez began supporting volunteer efforts and soon realized that they needed to think bigger to pull resources together more efficiently. He helped to found the Walla Walla Volunteer Corps which now has over 3,500 volunteers as part of their database, with over 500 of those being medical personnel.
The core objective of emergency response works to be prepared for potential disasters. The CHE has been a founding member of the Blue Mountain Regional Long-Term Recovery Group and this year, Lopez hopes to work towards a partnership with the American Red Cross as well. Students who wish may also get the opportunity to be trained in emergency response work and help in flood recovery.
The CHE worked closely with the city of College Place and the Blue Mountain Mental Health Cooperative to create a divergence program as an alternative option for shoplifting cases to bogging down local court systems. This will create an opportunity for social work students to get hands-on training. The divergence program will consist of online training and mental health programs.
To learn more about the CHE, upcoming events, or ways to get involved, visit wallawalla.edu/che.
Posted Aug. 11, 2021