While the COVID-19 outbreak forced all Trine University students to make sudden adjustments,
none were more impacted than its international students.
Fortunately, the Angola community, home to Trine since its founding in 1884, has stepped
up to help these students during their time of need.
In the spring, community members provided meals for students unable to travel home
when campus closed for five weeks. As the university prepares to begin the fall semester,
incoming international students, who have to quarantine for 14 days once they arrive
in the United States, have similarly been cared for by Angola businesses and churches.
“The response has been incredible,” said Mari McHenry, director of international community
services at Trine. “Churches and local business immediately asked about the number
of students who would welcome a healthy meal as a form of continued hospitality in
Angola, and asked about their dietary needs.”
McHenry said about a dozen international students arrived on campus and had to quarantine
July 20 through Aug. 5. Trine’s Office of International Services (OIS) reached out
to get lunch and dinner provided for these students each day.
Churches such as Fairview Missionary and Holy Family Episcopal, which had provided
meals during the spring semester and summer, continued to help. The university’s Bon
Appetit food service also provided a day of meals.
Also delivering meals were the First Congregational United Church of Christ, Sutton’s
Deli, Life Changing Church and Lakeside Meats.
Tom’s Donuts donated breakfasts.
“Many of the people packing the meals are providing not only the basics, but special
desserts, beverages, extra bottled water and some occasional gifts,” said McHenry.
“Knowing the students are far away from their families, the adoptive parents and families
include notes of encouragement, perhaps Bible verses and other niceties.”
Trine’s OIS also received a $5,000 grant toward meal costs from the Steuben County
Disaster Response Fund, created through a partnership between the Steuben County Community
Foundation and the Steuben County United Way. The funding is providing groceries and
meals outside of what has been donated.
International alumni from Trine University have contributed more than $2,000 toward
the effort, as well, including $500 donations from two female engineering alumnae:
Rupa Shanmugam, 1995 BSEE, and Skye (Ngyuen) Dames, 2017 BSChE.
International students said the meals helped them feel at home in a new country despite
the extraordinary circumstances.
“I was not able to go home like my peers, and even though I had some sad moments,
I was deeply blessed by the thoughtfulness of compassion and care given to us,” said
Chinazam Okoroafor of Nigeria, president of Trine's Multicultural Student Organization.
“In these scary times, it was nice to know that we had a whole community that had
our backs and cared about us,” said Nouh Alshakhl of Saudi Arabia.
“Every meal provided to me since I first arrived at the university has been amazing.
It felt like I never left home,” said Thaiphi Austria of Saipan.
“The meals we received made the transition to a new country much easier for me,” said
Jared Bowman of Canada, a member of the university’s hockey team. “Thank you for the
generosity shown by the members of the Angola community!”
McHenry said the meals not only took care of a basic need for the international students,
but gave them the opportunity, while quarantined, to feel welcomed by the community.
“COVID-19 has forced us to be isolated for a long time, but in many ways it has brought
opportunities for strangers to help one another, build relationships and bond,” she
said. “We are forever grateful for the groups who took time to make our current international
students feel at home, and to welcome our new ones. Our department has been so humbled
by the generosity of our community members.”
With the university’s fall schedule altered to include a longer, seven-week winter
break, Trine’s OIS continues to seek community partners to provide meals for international
students who are unable to return home during that time. Those interested can contact
McHenry at firstname.lastname@example.org or (260) 665-4630.