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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI student helps orphans in Nicaragua

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KINGSTON, R.I. –January 20, 2010--Matthew Brum and community service go together like balance sheets and audit reports. “I think it’s flowing in my blood,” he says. While working toward a degree in accounting, he has participated in four service trips with the Newman Club.

The East Providence resident hung sheet rock, plastered and painted, and paved driveways to help the hurricane rebuilding efforts in New Orleans –first as a freshman and then as a sophomore.

He’s also made two trips to Nicaragua. During his junior year, he and 14 other URI students dug trenches and built steel structures under scorching sun to help build a new orphanage for disabled and abandoned children in Diriamba. The orphanage is run by the Mustard Seed, a Roman Catholic organization dedicated to caring, sharing and training, and uplifting the most vulnerable members of society, especially handicapped and abandoned children, and marginalized communities.

“I remember getting off the bus and asking myself what I had gotten myself into. Here I was in foreign country, unable to speak the language, about to spend a week with children with whom I couldn’t communicate,” he recalls.

Within an hour of spending time with the children--some who couldn’t speak, hear, or see--his fears disappeared. “Human interaction doesn’t need a language,” he says. “There is a mutual understanding. Spending time with the children was the most rewarding time, playing with them, feeding them, walking them, and rocking them to sleep. All the children wanted was love.”

During their stay, the URI students were driven to see the Nicaragua Garbage Dump. “It wasn’t your average dump. It was a town of more than 3,000 people located within a garbage dump filled with debris, trash, and unimaginable pollution,” Matthew says.

Although the students brought food for their visit, it quickly ran out. “I’ll always remember trying to carefully break the Ritz crackers my friend had bought so that we could give more kids something to eat,’” said Matthew who left 90 percent of his clothes in Nicaragua. “I had enough clothes at home. They didn’t ” says the senior who has already been hired by CBIZ Tofias and Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C. - Tofias New England Division, together the 8th largest accounting firm in the U.S.

The Newman Club needed to raise $18,000 to return to Nicaragua last winter. With help and fundraising support of the nearby Christ the King Church, the 16 URI students raised $25,000. “That extra was enough to buy a bus for the orphanage,” says Matthew.

When they boarded the plane to Nicaragua, the URI students carried 15 bags of donations filled with Mustard Seed wish list items.