Mercer students travel abroad to study, serve


by Liz Bibb

A sailboat floats in Lake Malawi, located in Malawi, a landlocked country in southeast Africa. Senior Katie Martin traveled to Malawi with other Mercer students this summer as part of the Mercer on Mission program.


This summer, many Mercer students expanded their borders by travelling the globe. Whether globe-trotting with Mercer or venturing out on their own, students experienced the cultures of countries across the world.

Senior Matt Hickman traveled with eleven other students to Ethiopia for Mercer on Mission. While abroad, they worked with Water is Life International, an NGO with Cooperative

Baptist Fellowship roots, to dig a well for a local village in the Lake Langano region. The group finally hit water a few days before leaving, an accomplishment Hickman is incredibly proud of.

“It was one of the happiest feelings in my life to see hard work paying off in a major way – a feeling we shared with much of the community who helped us dig,” Hickman said.

After digging the well, the group moved south to the city of Awassa where they taught at Holy Union Secondary School and worked at a local orphanage. Mercer students taught a range of subjects at the school, including English, math and science. At the orphanage, Hickman said, the group gave the children a chance to relax and have fun by playing soccer and spending lots of quality one-on-one time with the kids.

The trip was not all work and no play, however. The group spent their nights playing cards, talking and looking for hippos alongside Lake Langano. They also participated in nature walks during the day, where they saw snakes, baboons, wild cats and warthogs.

Hickman said one of his most memorable experiences from the trip was a nighttime adventure with local missionaries to see hyenas. Just as their group reached a well-known hyena dwelling, their truck got stuck in the mud. The students had to help pull the vehicle free while listening to the laughing bark of hyenas less than 50 yards away.

Almost two months after his return from Ethiopia, Hickman said his memories from the trip still have significant value to him, particularly considering the current situation in Somalia.

Senior Katie Martin also participated in a Mercer on Mission, but her group traveled to Malawi, a landlocked country in southeast Africa.

Martin’s group worked in the city of Zomba, installing a solar water pump at an orphanage/church in the area. The goal of their project was to create a sustainable resource that would not need to be replaced quickly and would not run on non-renewable energy.

The group also planted a fruit orchard and a vegetable garden in the area.

Martin traveled with Dr. Andre Butler of the engineering department and Dr. Z. Vokhiwa, an environmental science professor and native of Malawi. The group was made up mostly of students from Mercer’s Henry County and Douglas County campuses.

Martin said Mercer on Mission is one of the best programs Mercer offers. “You get a life-changing trip with people you’ll never forget for a low price,” she said. “It’s highly affordable and helped me realize my want for traveling abroad.”

Senior Jennifer Lada struck out on her own this summer and procured an internship at a local non-profit called Prime Trust located in Pondicherry in the south of India.

The main purpose of the organization is to provide micro-credits to women looking to start their own businesses, but it also runs awareness campaigns about HIV, nutrition and child labor and operates three after-school programs for the children of women starting businesses and two orphanages.

Lada was free to work on any projects with the organization, but she mostly focused on grant-writing, fundraising, managing website content and teaching English. She said she also gained valuable experience about micro-financing.

Lada said her time in India was valuable, not only for the internship but also for the cultural experience. She would encourage anyone interested in India to apply for a similar internship, as she found Indian culture surprisingly easy to adapt to.