Laura Buccigrossi

International Experience Country:
South Africa
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

University of Pittsburgh | Oakland

Heinz Programming Area:
Children, Youth, and Families
International Experience Summary:

Over the course of two months, Laura Buccigrossi took on a number of important roles as she visited Cape Town, South Africa. She was not only a volunteer in diverse communities but she also played the part of a student at the University of Cape Town and a participant in various cultural excursions. Through an organization called Children of South Africa (CHOSA), she planned and implemented a month-long art therapy program for six teenagers living in the Abaphumeleli Safety Home for abused, abandoned, or HIV affected children in Khayelitsha Township. Through this experience, Laura learned the basics of the African language isiXhosa and became close with Abap’s housemother, Evelyn Makasi, who had devoted her life to caring for the at-risk children in her community. By immersing herself in township culture, Laura was able to see the immense need for more effective governmental policies pertaining to human rights and education. During her stay at the Cape Town YMCA, she volunteered for the Y-Zone afterschool program on Groot Constantia Wine Farm where she tutored third and fourth grade students. Laura assisted the YMCA’s Global Teens program by introducing American teenagers from New York City to teenagers from Cape Town and directing discussions about how race presents itself in each country. Laura was able to enjoy a tour of the famous Garden Route where she bungee jumped off of the highest bungee in the world on the Bloukrans Bridge. She also participated in a weekend homestay with the Ely family of Bo-Kaap where she learned about the tight-knit Muslim community in South Africa as well as Cape Town’s history of slavery. South Africa is one of the most diverse nations in the world and Laura was able to create lasting friendships with people from many countries in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and all over the United States. From these friends she experienced inspiring generosity and care and shared joy in the face of poverty, difference in race, politics or religion. These are the lessons that Laura will carry with her in all of her future endeavors.

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: FITTsburgh Shares

FITTsburgh Shares planned and organized a gently used sporting goods drive on the University of Pittsburgh’s Oakland campus. University staff, students and community members banded together to alleviate the lack of athletic resources at the Hazelwood YMCA and Obama Academy 6-12 in East Liberty. Together, we collected over 350 donations including 48 reusable water bottles, 38 basketballs, 54 baseballs, 27 dodge balls, 21 soccer balls and much more. Before the drive, the Hazelwood Y did not have a single usable sports ball. In addition to providing these resources, we were able to speak out at campus events about women’s empowerment through sports, poverty in Pittsburgh, and the impact a healthier lifestyle can have on a child’s life. At our donation ceremony on April 12, 3013, we engaged fifty children from both the Hazelwood and Greenfield YMCA programs in activities centered on a more holistic view of personal health. These activities touched on balanced nutrition, stress-management, body image and sportsmanship. An indoor physical activities packet was created to assist staff in keeping the kids moving during the winter months or at times of inclement weather. Relationships were forged between the University and the Hazelwood YMCA, and new internship opportunities for Pitt students to serve in Hazelwood are in the works.