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In 1988, Bonnie Winfield was a suburban housewife and single parent whose world changed in the course of a few hours during a visit to a mountain clinic in Nicaragua.

There, she witnessed a child dying of malnutrition — the result, in part, of the United States’ economic boycott of the revolution-ravaged nation.

By the time she returned to the U.S., Winfield had decided that she would teach others about social justice—and to do that, she’d need a Ph.D.

“Fortunately, nobody laughed at me,” Winfield, now director of Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center, told a group of alumni and staff during a Reunion Weekend talk Saturday afternoon.

She went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Syracuse University, followed by a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary social science from the university’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She became a professor and later an administrator.

“I wanted to be that person who builds bridges,” she said.

Today, Winfield manages about 25 programs that bring students into the local community to tutor children, spruce up parks, cook for homeless families, work with Alzheimer’s patients, and help and learn in many more ways. She also oversees students who travel long distances to conduct service projects through the Alternative School Break Club.

Winfield showed several videos of students’ experiences and mentioned that for the first time, alumni in several regional chapters joined the rest of the Lafayette community for Lafapalooza: Lafayette’s National Days of Service this spring, conducting service in their areas.

“All of you can be involved in this in future years,” she said.

Alan Raisman ’10, winner of Lafayette’s Volunteer of the Year award, told the audience that Pards to People, Lafayette’s chapter of People to People International, a program begun in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is about “creating peace through understanding.”

Raisman began volunteering during his third week on campus and does extensive work in the community, including attending weekly “Weed and Seed” meetings about improving conditions in the city’s West Ward. He noted that Lafayette is one of only 27 colleges and universities in the world currently participating in People to People—and one of only four in the United States.

“I plan to stay in Easton and work with this over the next three years,” he said.

Winfield said several other students and alumni, including Pepper Prize winners Nangula Shejavali ’06 and Danielle Bero ’07, as well as Jillian Gaeta ’07, have traveled to Namibia to extend the Outreach Center’s work.

Winfield closed her talk with a poem entitled “Take a Stand,” about children who have suffered from poverty, neglect, and injustice.

“In faith, we must join hand in hand. Suffer the children and take a stand,” she read.

At the talk’s end, alumni spoke in support of the program.

“When you learn to do good things unconditionally, it’s called ‘psychic income,” one alumnus pointed out. “When you finally understand and learn that, your life is better.”

EllenPoriles Weiler ’83, a Alumni Association Executive Committee member and chair of its Volunteer Committee, talked about the enriching experience that Philadelphia alumni chapter members had through participating in Lafapalooza. Her report on the group’s service at a food bank can be found in the latest Alumni Chapter Roundup.

Categorized in: Alumni