Angola community provides food, welcome to Trine international students
While the COVID-19 outbreak forced all Trine University students to make sudden adjustments, none were more impacted than its international students.
Fortunately, the Angola community, home to Trine since its founding in 1884, has stepped up to help these students during their time of need.
In the spring, community members provided meals for students unable to travel home when campus closed for five weeks. As the university prepares to begin the fall semester, incoming international students, who have to quarantine for 14 days once they arrive in the United States, have similarly been cared for by Angola businesses and churches.
“The response has been incredible,” said Mari McHenry, director of international community services at Trine. “Churches and local business immediately asked about the number of students who would welcome a healthy meal as a form of continued hospitality in Angola, and asked about their dietary needs.”
McHenry said about a dozen international students arrived on campus and had to quarantine July 20 through Aug. 5. Trine’s Office of International Services (OIS) reached out to get lunch and dinner provided for these students each day.
Churches such as Fairview Missionary and Holy Family Episcopal, which had provided meals during the spring semester and summer, continued to help. The university’s Bon Appetit food service also provided a day of meals.
Also delivering meals were the First Congregational United Church of Christ, Sutton’s Deli, Life Changing Church and Lakeside Meats.
Tom’s Donuts donated breakfasts.
“Many of the people packing the meals are providing not only the basics, but special desserts, beverages, extra bottled water and some occasional gifts,” said McHenry. “Knowing the students are far away from their families, the adoptive parents and families include notes of encouragement, perhaps Bible verses and other niceties.”
Trine’s OIS also received a $5,000 grant toward meal costs from the Steuben County Disaster Response Fund, created through a partnership between the Steuben County Community Foundation and the Steuben County United Way. The funding is providing groceries and meals outside of what has been donated.
International alumni from Trine University have contributed more than $2,000 toward the effort, as well, including $500 donations from two female engineering alumnae: Rupa Shanmugam, 1995 BSEE, and Skye (Ngyuen) Dames, 2017 BSChE.
International students said the meals helped them feel at home in a new country despite the extraordinary circumstances.
“I was not able to go home like my peers, and even though I had some sad moments, I was deeply blessed by the thoughtfulness of compassion and care given to us,” said Chinazam Okoroafor of Nigeria, president of Trine's Multicultural Student Organization.
“In these scary times, it was nice to know that we had a whole community that had our backs and cared about us,” said Nouh Alshakhl of Saudi Arabia.
“Every meal provided to me since I first arrived at the university has been amazing. It felt like I never left home,” said Thaiphi Austria of Saipan.
“The meals we received made the transition to a new country much easier for me,” said Jared Bowman of Canada, a member of the university’s hockey team. “Thank you for the generosity shown by the members of the Angola community!”
McHenry said the meals not only took care of a basic need for the international students, but gave them the opportunity, while quarantined, to feel welcomed by the community.
“COVID-19 has forced us to be isolated for a long time, but in many ways it has brought opportunities for strangers to help one another, build relationships and bond,” she said. “We are forever grateful for the groups who took time to make our current international students feel at home, and to welcome our new ones. Our department has been so humbled by the generosity of our community members.”
With the university’s fall schedule altered to include a longer, seven-week winter break, Trine’s OIS continues to seek community partners to provide meals for international students who are unable to return home during that time. Those interested can contact McHenry at firstname.lastname@example.org or (260) 665-4630.