Department: Cover Story
Contained within the principles we strive to achieve as brothers in Sigma Alpha Epsilon, you will find the line that reads, “…to develop in our members a sense of duty for individual and group involvement in social interactions, service and community outreach.” When most members think about the areas that require attention in their chapters, community service doesn’t always come to mind. That’s because organizing a mass effort or project requires time, patience and enthusiasm. Plus, there’s a common misperception that service events equate the need to raise thousands of dollars for a charitable cause.
Not true. Community service is not about how much money we raise or how many projects we do. It’s about being a good citizen, helping fellow man and finding satisfaction in assisting those people who are less fortunate than we are. A decade ago, Sigma Alpha Epsilon launched the inaugural True Gentleman Day of Service, a day or weekend designated specifically for chapters and colonies to rally around one project and help their local communities. In 2012, more than 100 groups participated in the Day of Service. But it’s not the only time of the year we should be focused on our communities.
Every once in awhile, we hear about a good deed or service project that goes well beyond the typical food drive, highway cleanup or marathon. A select group of men from Washington Beta at Washington State University traveled to a completely different country in pursuit of a worthy cause. Surprised by work conditions, lodging arrangements and local culture, their story showcases what happens when we travel outside our comfort zone and experience a new appreciation for the luxuries we enjoy as American citizens.
What began as a long-awaited opportunity for Mark Spiegelberg (’13) and the men of Washington Beta became one of the most difficult challenges and greatest lessons they had ever faced.
Throughout high school, Spiegelberg had to sit on the sidelines, busy with other obligations, while his friends on the basketball team at Union High School went on adventures. They built basketball courts for children in impoverished communities around the world, sponsored by the non-profit organization, Courts for Kids.
But Spiegelberg’s waiting paid off in college. He found the time to travel with Courts for Kids and studied abroad in the same summer break. “He was able to participate and bring his fraternity brothers, too,” Derek Nesland, founder and president of Courts for Kids said. They would be accompanied by three firefighters from Portland, Oregon, who had traveled with the organization before.
The men were going to the small mountain village of Colorado de Biolley in Costa Rica. Getting there was half the battle. Money had to be raised to send the volunteers there, and they would have to make preparations for the project as well.