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Manhattanville Students Comfort AIDS Patients

HARRISON, N.Y. -- Though a more accepting culture towards HIV/AIDS patients has developed since the disease first became widespread in 1981, living with the illness can still be a lonely existence. But Manhattanville College students are doing their part to comfort those with HIV/AIDS.

Along with Manhattanville College Community Services Director Craig Donnelly, students travel down to the Church of St. Stephen of Hungary on 82nd Street in Manhattan where they help serve food and speak with people living with HIV/AIDS.

“The number one priority at this college is service,” Donnelly said. “Every year our students volunteer for a total of 50,000 hours.”

Junior Karim Mahmoud has been volunteering with the program since he was a freshman. Though Mahmoud said that he originally began his work with the church because he had a community service hours quota to fill, it didn’t take long for him to not only enjoy the experience but to want to help regardless.

“We are basically having dialogues with the patients and acting as ambassadors,” Mahmoud said. “Now that I’ve been volunteering for a couple of years I’ve got to know some of the patients at the church on a more personal level.”

For freshman Frank Fusca, the decision to start volunteering with this program was an easy choice. Fusca said that he performed similar service work while a student at Mahopac High School before he enrolled at Manhattanville. A Duchesne scholar who is studying to be a math teacher, Fusca saw that the group needed a driver for the van they use and jumped on the opportunity.

“People just shouldn’t be afraid of people living with HIV/AIDS,” Fusca said. “They are just people like me and you. I just try to be friendly and come in with an open mind.”

Manhattanville College is tied to the program at St. Stephen’s in more ways than volunteering. The program for the HIV/AIDS patients is run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the same organization that originally founded the college back in the 1800s. But, that’s just an added bonus since students say they would volunteer there regardless of who runs the program.

“It’s just very satisfying and I’m glad I do it,” Mahmoud said.

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