La Roche conference focuses on global acts of kindness

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The books, medical supplies and other items to be boxed up Saturday on the North Side for shipment to developing nations no doubt will touch the lives of those in need.

But the act itself may do something just as powerful for the volunteers, who will be learning as they attend a conference on global relief that valuable acts of kindness come in all sizes. "You can start small," said Thomas Schaefer, an administrator at La Roche College.

The 8th annual Global Problems, Global Solutions conference will take place Friday and Saturday. La Roche is working with sponsoring organizations including Brother's Brother Foundation, GlobalPittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Council for Higher Education.

The event is free and open to the public but requires pre-registration. It attracts varied individuals, from college students and professors, to business and nonprofit professionals, along with church group members and others, said Mr. Schaefer, associate vice president for academic affairs at La Roche.

About 300 people are expected, he said.

Conference-goers generally are those with a predisposition to get involved. The two-day event is an attempt to give them training and information as well as inspiration for their outreach, he said.

Mr. Schaefer said perhaps the most rewarding part for him personally is seeing the eye-opening impact on students and other younger participants getting their first real exposure to community volunteering.

"The adults, many of them are already there. They know exactly the importance of these things. The exciting thing is the young people discovering that these efforts are important," he said.

Organizers say this year's gathering, with a theme of peace and justice, will take place Downtown and at other locations in the city and on La Roche's main campus in McCandless. The gathering will incorporate Millennium Development goals created by the United Nations for fighting hunger, poverty, HIV, AIDS, gender inequality and child mortality.

Planners have tapped as this year's keynote speaker George Mitchell, a former U.S. senator and author whose career has had much do with global causes. He was a U.S. special envoy and independent chairman of the Northern Ireland peace talks and U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace.

The session at the Duquesne Club that will include his remarks will start at 6 p.m. Friday.

Mr. Mitchell is the inaugural recipient of the La Roche College Peace Medal.

Conference organizers hope to give attendees opportunities to volunteer around the city Saturday. For instance, individuals will be invited to work with Brother's Brother on the North Side from 9 a.m. to noon to box books and other educational items for donation abroad.

Mr. Schaefer said another workshop session to be held on La Roche's main campus between 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday will give an overview of the humanitarian field. It is being held through the college's Global Development and Humanitarian Aid program.

Those wishing to attend the conference can register online at www.laroche.edu/global.

education - neigh_north

Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.


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