This article was originally published in the spring Communiqué found HERE.
At the heart of the Academy of Holy Angels mission statement is that our students and our alumni go out into the world and serve selflessly. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet have modeled this Christ-like commitment to serving our dear neighbor without distinction since our founding in 1877.
AHA students are immersed in service opportunities throughout their high school career. Each student is required to complete a minimum of 75 hours of Christian service before graduating. In addition, they may also earn a Blue Service Award each year for doubling the requirement or a Gold Service Award for tripling the yearly requirement.
AHA’s Faith in Action program ensures that each sport and activity actively engages in group service. And finally, AHA has an All-School Service Day each May where every staff member and every student in the school goes out into the community to provide service in a variety of ways. In 2022, over 650 people put in nearly 2,000 hours of service.
We are proud of alumni Anna Koppel ’06 and Joe Arms ’84 (pictured above) who, through their medical expertise and dedication to helping others, care for underserved children in other countries through Children’s Surgery International (CSI). Anna and Joe became affiliated with CSI on their own accord and on separate trips. Here are their reflections on this important work.
A REFLECTION BY JOE ARMS ‘84
As a physician, my core responsibilities with Children’s Surgery International (CSI) are screening patients before surgeries and taking care of them while they are in the hospital. Part of my work there is also teaching medicine to the local doctors and nurses.
What struck me most was the joyful manner in which the Liberians live. The entire country has a level of poverty we just don’t see in the United States, yet the average Liberian seems to enjoy life more than the average American. It was a good reminder that happiness comes from relationships with family, friends, community, and the simple pleasures life has to offer.
One of the biggest challenges in this work is not having the resources to help some of the patients. Simple things that are in every hospital in the U.S. are a scarce to nonexistent resource in Liberia. Some of the joys that came from the work was being with the team of health care providers from all sorts of backgrounds. While we were all coming from different experiences and walks of life, we were all like-minded in our efforts to do what we could do to help the Liberian people.
My parent’s emphasis on community involvement and service was and continues to be a big influence on me. In addition, the fact that community service was required while I was a student at Holy Angels helped create the foundation for my interest in this kind of service work. I’ve taken one trip with Children’s Surgery International, and I hope to go annually - either back to Liberia or to one of the other countries CSI supports.
A REFLECTION BY ANNA KOPPEL ‘06
My first trip with Children’s Surgery International was in 2010 when I was a nursing student. Since then, I have gone on eight trips total to Vietnam, Liberia, and Tanzania. On these CSI mission trips, I work in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit and teach nurse education related to requested topics from the local health care workers.
Over the years, I’ve learned that children don’t choose who or what circumstances they are born into. I believe each one should get a fair shot at becoming the best they can be, which means they deserve nutrition, a support system, and health care. I am honored to support all children, no matter their walk of life or their current situation.
The biggest challenge in this work is that I have to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t do or change. I knew from a young age, and with the help of my Holy Angels education, that I was born to serve. I am proud to do it; it is in my blood.
About Children's Surgery International
Children’s Surgery International makes a difference around the world by providing free surgical services to children in need. They build partnerships with local hospitals and conduct surgical mission trips to some of the poorest regions of the world. There they provide pediatric surgical and medical care to children who would not otherwise have access to such highly specialized services. Their educational mission is to provide local medical professionals with handson training in the operating room and at the patient bedside, with the goal to make the local surgical community self-sufficient in providing care.
For more information about Children’s Surgery International, click HERE.