In her first job since graduation, Molly Daniels ’12 has been busy. She facilitates meetings with government and community partners, creates programming and workshops, organizes mentors and volunteer services and supervises construction — all from a small office in rural Africa that, on most days, has no electricity.
Daniels, a human rights and international studies graduate, began last August a yearlong stint as outreach coordinator for Arlington Academy of Hope (AAH), a nonprofit based in Virginia but filled with Dayton spirit.
Classmates (and fraternity brothers) Richard Burk ’67 and George Molaski ’67 serve on the board of directors as president and treasurer, respectively, and Matthew Shank, former dean of the School of Business Administration and current president of Marymount University, recently joined AAH’s advisory board. Together, these individuals represent nearly a quarter of AAH’s staff and volunteers, a statistic that didn’t surprise executive director Maureen Dugan.
“At first I thought, ‘What are the odds that a tiny organization would have four links to UD?’ But, the more I learned about the University of Dayton, I realized it’s not that shocking,” Dugan said. “The UD community feels a calling to do something more, to make a contribution that matters.”
While Daniels was well-prepared for outreach, other aspects of Ugandan life came with a learning curve. Expecting a hot climate, she was pleasantly surprised to find daytime temperatures in the 60s. Prepared for a lukewarm greeting, Daniels was met by friendly faces who “love having visitors from other countries, especially the U.S.” She also had to adjust her animal expectations.
“I was hoping to get a pet monkey. But sadly, I’ve only seen monkeys in protected areas such as national parks and reserves,” Daniels said. “In fact, wild animals rarely exist outside the parks, and the closest thing to a wild animal I have seen in my village is a chameleon.”
Daniels is grateful for the opportunity, despite electricity battles (“I rarely have power, and lately I haven’t had power for three weeks at a time, coming on for only a few days then shutting off again.”) and meetings that can last all day (“Here, it’s not uncommon to wait two hours to start a meeting or event.).
“The most rewarding part of my time, without a doubt, is time spent with the children. Even though most of them go home to mud houses and no dinner, they understand the importance of a good education and want to work hard so they can live a better life. They give me hope for the future,” she said, noting that AAH also supports health care with a clinic in Bupoto, on the Kenyan border.
After completing her AAH service next month, Daniels plans to backpack through Tanzania, Zambia and Namibia before heading home to Cincinnati and beginning coursework in a master of public administration program.