Students Touched by Hodes’ Soul

Ellen Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief

Rosa, a 7-year-old second grade student loves playing hide-and-seek with her friends. Her favorite subjects in school are English and math. She is ranked 6 out of 80 students in her class and has dreams of becoming a doctor.

While those facts make Rose like any other second grader, what sets her apart is that she lives in a mud house with her mother in Gondar, a city in Ethiopia. She has a twisted spine and a hole in her heart. She is looking for support from Rick Hodes, an American doctor who has lived and worked in Ethiopia for 20 years. This is the story in “This is a Sole,” a heart wrenching book that nursing professor Kathy Gelso used as a First Year Experience class she taught two years ago and as part of a presentation for junior nursing majors.

Junior nursing majors Kayla Zechman and Ashley Allen heard Hodes’ heard the story, read the book, and felt compelled to help.

“After reading the book {Hodes} is just inspiring because he uses all his money to help these kids and these kids would walk miles on miles on miles to his clinic because he is one of the only doctors there,” said Zechman.

Zechman and other members of the class of 2014 nursing department thought this would be the perfect fundraiser and a way for their class to be remembered after graduation.

“Ashley and I thought it would be a good idea to raise money through our nursing class for him by fundraising and sending it over there so that we could be a part of helping the kids get their surgeries,” Zechman said.

Gelso is proud of how quickly Zechman took to the project.

“Kayla was amazing and she wanted to help out, too,” Gelso said. “She just really took the ball and she’s running with it. I’m really proud of her.”

Hodes pays for the surgeries and medications out of his own pocket, and he has adopted more than 10 children so he could care for them under his health insurance. But he needs the support of others.

The donations are placed through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in New York, for which Hodes is the medical director.

Gelso said they do not have a fundraising goal, but they hope to make an impact by encouraging the campus community to support their project.

“Whatever monetary donations that we collect will go directly to Dr. Hodes in Ethiopia,” she said. “We opened up a bank account and we are just going to see what happens. So, I don’t know. Finances are tight for everyone.”

Zechman said support from the nursing class is crucial.  “Every little bit counts.”

The nursing class of 2014 is not the only group looking to help. According to Hodes’ website, people are donating in honor of weddings, birthdays and family events.

The website also gives examples of how much money is needed for certain procedures so that donors will know exactly where the money is going.

For Rosa’s spine and heart surgery, for example,  the cost is $25,500, according to Hodes’ website.

Gelso wants students, faculty and staff to know how important Hodes’ mission is.

“I think that the mission of Dr. Hodes is completely in alignment of the mission of Misericordia and of our charisms of mercy, service, justice and hospitality,” Gelso said. “If we could do something related to nursing that is in alignment with our course objectives and in alignment with Misericordia that would be great. Having a sense of the bigger picture is important, you know, pay it forward outside of Dallas Pennsylvania.”

Zechman, Allen and other nursing students are holding a bake sale on March 13 in the Banks Student Life Center. All proceeds will benefit Hodes’ project. The students are also reaching out to faculty, staff and students in other departments.

“We’re posting flyers so that anyone that wants to pitch in a dollar or two can contact me or Ashley,” Zechman said. “And also, a couple kids are asking their church to do a fundraiser for it. And Ashley’s mom and my mom are bringing the project to the schools they work at so that anyone there could pitch in.”

For more information about Hodes go to rickhodes.org. To donate through the nursing class, contact Zechman, Allen or Gelso.

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