Everyone has his or her “thing.” For Gabriella Kaddu, a sophomore pre-med student studying biochemistry and sociology, that “thing” is volunteering.
Despite little experience with community service before college, Kaddu has thrived at Case Western Reserve University as a frequent volunteer through programs offered by the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning (CCEL).
In fact, this week, she devoted her spring break to participating in CCEL’s Alternative Breaks program, which offers students the chance to spend their week away from school making a difference in other communities.
Kaddu is a site leader in Michigan this week for the “Beyond Orange is the New Black: Mass Incarceration in the U.S.” The project allows students to participate in service activities and advocate for incarcerated individuals to gain a better understanding of the nation’s criminal justice system.
For Kaddu, the program offers a unique perspective on issues she learns about in sociology courses.
“When we study things concerning mass incarceration, there’s no humanizing of the issue,” she said. “Adding a face to what you study in class helps to understand it.”
Before the experience, Kaddu looked forward to meeting with families of incarcerated individuals to better understand their experiences.
But the Alternative Breaks program is just Kaddu’s most recent community service activity. From the start of her first semester at CWRU, she’s been heavily involved in many initiatives, including the Labre Homeless Outreach and the CCEL Serves Community Meal programs.
Every Monday, the students who run Labre spend five to six hours preparing meals with donated food and then meeting with people in their communities. Meanwhile, Kaddu leads the Community Meal program, which provides hot meals once per week to residents of Ohio City.
After regular involvement with these programs, Kaddu is on first-name basis with many of the people she serves. They often ask her how her school is going, and in one instance, one of the men actually helped her study for an upcoming exam.
“They become our friends,” she said.
Kaddu has even seen how her volunteer experiences are helping prepare her for a career in medicine. While shadowing doctors, she noticed they often referred to patients by what brought them to the hospital—like “the hernia case”—and not by their names.
“As a doctor, you forget that you’re treating humans,” said Kaddu, who, as a result, makes a more concerted effort to remember those patients’ names.
With upwards of 400 community service hours invested during her time at CWRU, Kaddu has had plenty of opportunities to practice connecting with the people she’s serving.
Given how much she’s learned from the experience, she hopes more of her fellow students will “break out of the CWRU bubble.”
“I think it’s important to do these things because it humbles us,” she said. “It reminds us what we take for granted each day. We need to be more mindful of things happening outside of our bubble.”
Take a look at Kaddu’s answers to this week’s five questions.
1. What do you like most about Cleveland?
I like the people serve.
2. What’s your favorite social media platform?
I don’t have social media—I only have text messaging, calling and email.
3. What was the most influential class you’ve ever taken?
My principle investigator is the most influential person I’ve met at CWRU. [Professor Paul Bakaki] in the medical school. He’s my mentor, he’s my adviser, career guide, and yet he’s not even connected to me in the undergrad part of CWRU. He really cares for us, the students with whom he works.
4. If you could meet any historical figure, who would you pick, and why?
The person I’d like to meet is God—I have a few questions for him. Though thankful, there are a few queries I have about his design.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
I love the fact that we have CCEL and Labre.