Suffer the Little Children

The Tapachula prison in southern Mexico is communal—open dormitories where families join incarcerated husbands and fathers if there is nowhere else to go. “These children are in the midst of rapists, killers, prostitutes, drug dealers. Men sell their children as prostitutes to get money for food,” says Karen Slaggert, associate director of the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship. 

But it’s not entirely hopeless, thanks to Mission on the Move. Founded by an American couple who go into the prison and convince parents to let them care for their children, the mission has three homes in Tapachula where they raise as many as 60 children. “They have no schools in the prison,” Slaggert says. “These children would have no chance but to follow in the footsteps of their parents.” 

Slaggert has been an enthusiastic volunteer for Mission on the Move since her first trip 10 years ago when she and other women from her South Bend church provided respite for the house parents—cooking, cleaning and spending time with the children. “These are precious children, no different from my kids or yours,” she says.

The cooking and cleaning that she and her team do is grueling—cooking for 60 people on  industrial stoves in a kitchen where there’s no AC and temps outside hover around 100 degrees. Oh, and convenience foods aren’t an option. Everything they cook is from scratch. Then there’s the laundry. The huge industrial washing machines are great but laundry lines crisscross the back yard and all the wash is hung out to dry. “We are wimps compared to the workers there,” says Slaggert. “It takes an army of us to replace the two house parents.”

Slaggert and her husband Paul (BBA ‘74), Mendoza’s director of non-degree programs, have three children with Notre Dame degrees thanks to the university’s educational benefit program. Now they’re paying it forward, helping with college tuition for the children of the mission.

“These boys were living in a prison and had no hope,” she says. “Now they are going to make a difference.”

www.missiononthemove.org 

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For 24 years, James O’Rourke IV has helped countless people take a seat. The director of the Fanning Center for Business Communication serves as the captain of the ushers in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, coordinating a small group of students and retired businesspeople to help worshippers find seats, assist the handicapped and manage communion and the collection, as well as the occasional medical emergency during the Sunday 10 a.m. solemn high Mass.

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Julie Phillips has made education her career and the focus of her service work. The associate program director of the Master of Science in Accountancy serves on the Baugo Community School’s Board of Trustees. Some of her efforts include saving a historic gym, establishing an endowed scholarship and recruiting MSA international students to staff a seventh grade Junior Achievement program.

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Every spring during Lent, the posters go up in Mendoza like clockwork, encouraging folks to donate boxes of mac and cheese, cans of vegetables, boxes of cereal and other foodstuffs to the 40 Boxes in 40 Days campaign. Tamara Springer, an editorial assistant in the Faculty Support Department, has coordinated the food drive for nine years. “Every year, we’ve surpassed our goal with food and cash donations from the College,” says Springer. “This is one way that we Ask More of Business™ and reach out into the community to do good.”

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Peggy Bolstetter’s service opportunities came to her in a very personal fashion. In 2006, her only brother, Anthony, was diagnosed with AML leukemia. Although his best hope for survival was a bone marrow transplant, a match wasn’t found. Other treatments proved unsuccessful. Following his death in 2009, Bolstetter and her sister began sponsoring the annual Christopher’s Challenge Walk, an event that raises funds to pay for the typing of samples for individuals willing to become potential donors through the National Marrow Donor Program.

Today, Bolstetter, a marketing communications program manager, also supports the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in honor of her 3-year-old grandson, Vincenzo, who was diagnosed with the disease at 6-weeks old. “Great strides have been made and the life expectancy of CF patients has increased,” she says. “But our prayer is that Enzo and all who suffer from CF will benefit from continued research and effective treatment, and live a full, fruitful, long life.”