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MSW students seek donations to aid Nicaraguans

By : Rachel Coker

Graduate students in social work will travel to Nicaragua next month to learn about an unusual social services network there. Goretti Mugambwa and Ajus Ninan, who expect to receive master’s degrees in 2007, are among the eight Binghamton students who plan to spend 10 days observing and helping with initiatives coordinated by Ann Coyne at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Academic Advisor Mary Raymondi will also make the trip.

Mugambwa and Ninan said the trip has special meaning for them since they’re both from underdeveloped countries and are eager to learn lessons they could apply in their home nations. “Setting up a whole social services system is what we’re looking for,” said Ninan, who’s from India. “We’re interested in giving people a chance in life.”

Ninan moved to the United States as a child and served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has worked with children from Mumbai’s red-light district and plans to return t

o that project with new ideas and knowledge gained through the master’s program.

Mugambwa, who’s from Uganda, received a bachelor’s degree from Binghamton in 2002 and a master’s in social science from the University in 2003. She hopes to open an orphanage back in Uganda.

While Ninan and Mugambwa joke about MSW standing for “master’s of street wisdom” rather than “master’s of social work,” some other students going to Nicaragua haven’t traveled outside the United States before. All of them expect to return with new perspectives on social work and on the relationship between the United States and poorer nations.

Coyne has worked with residents of Managua and León, a city about 50 miles from the capital, for about 20 years. With support from Rotary International, she has established an orphanage, health clinic and preschool there.

Robin Russel, director of the Division of Social Work, taught with Coyne at th

e University of Nebraska for 13 years. Last year, Russel arranged for a couple of Binghamton students who were interested in international social work to travel with Coyne. This year, Binghamton will send more students than Nebraska.

“I knew it would be a good experience,” Russel said. “You come back and you see our culture through different eyes.”

Students who travel with Coyne will work with students focusing on social work and English at a university in León. The Nicaraguan students are often single mothers who are attending school part time. Some can’t scrape together the $50 annual tuition.

The Binghamton students hope to collect $3,000-$5,000 before they leave. The money will fund scholarships for the Nicaraguan students and help get the new preschool running.

“We’re there to see the situation and see what more we can do to make it a more efficient agency,” Ninan said. “All the work is really before we go.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08