Contagious goodness

Whenever we hear from students about their experiences on Alternative Spring Break trips, Studies Abroad, community projects in

Cat Elsby and a few Honduran friends

Harrisonburg or on the other side of the world, there’s a nearly universal chorus. It goes something like this: “I got more than I gave.” These experiences, increasingly available to students, are life changing — and many have residual impacts.

What students see when they step out of their comfortable collegiate lives often surprises and challenges them. They rarely come home and let their experiences go. Many students are driven to do more. They find what might be called a kind of contagious goodness.

Such is the case of one student I met online over the weekend. Catherine “Cat” Elsby (’11) from Lavallette, N.J, is a SMAD major who is smitten with the orphaned children of Honduras.

“I volunteered for Students Helping Honduras over Spring Break and traveled to Honduras to help build a children’s home,” Cat wrote. “The conditions there really shook me up.” This was not Cat’s first trip. She’s also traveled to Belize with ASB.

Working with the organization that began on another Virginia campus in 2005, Cat helped build a children’s home. While there, she visited an orphanage. “The children had bugs crawling all over them and they were caked in dirt. They were lying on cement floors and cutting the weeds with machetes,” Cat wrote. “I was so shocked and upset, and I just wanted to give those children something they’ve never had before: hope.”

Like so many of her generation, wanting translated into doing.

“It’s so overwhelming to see the conditions they live in. I want to help improve those conditions any way I can,” Cat wrote.

When Cat returned to JMU, she got to work. She is raising money to help build the Villa Soleada Children’s Home. “I’ve been asking friends, family business, anyone for donations, and holding diverse fundraising events at my house.”

The Villa Soleada Orphanage will provide shelter, food, education and a loving family to the orphaned and abandoned children in northern Honduras. So far, Cat has raised more than $1000 and wants to double that by the semester’s end.

Students Helping Honduras welcomes both group and individual efforts like Cat’s. According to their website, SHH has established chapters at more than 100 colleges and high schools, including a JMU chapter as well.

Apparently, goodness is contagious indeed.

To learn more about Cat’s project, visit her SHH page:
To learn more about Students Helping Honduras, which has now spread to nearly 30 campuses, including JMU, visit  Here you can see where JMU’s ranks.

About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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