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From the Ground Up

Written by Nicole Ogrysko

Chris Toone '13 with children in Ghana

For athletic training major Chris Toone ’13, his entire worldview changed in 2010 when he studied abroad and visited poverty stricken Senase, a small village in Ghana.

“The school had no walls, no ceilings,” he explains. “When I went there it was raining inside the classrooms. The teachers couldn’t actually teach in the classrooms because everyone was huddled in the center.”

After visiting the village, Toone and a few of his classmates in the Semester at Sea program were inspired to help. While still abroad, they formed the Senase Project, a nonprofit organization that aims to empower the people of the village and address problems of malaria, water quality, and access to medical care. After founding the Senase Project, the students received a $500 grant from DoSomething.org, and, through other donations, contributions, and fundraising events, they raised over $6,000 in 2011. The money helped to purchase new uniforms for the students and contributed toward a new four-room, solid-walled school, which was built in cooperation with the Ghanaian government. The group’s fundraising efforts have also led to plans for a medical clinic, slated for construction this spring.

Semester at Sea is a study-abroad program open to students of all majors. Students spend a semester on a ship, taking classes and visiting a variety of countries. Toone traveled to 13 different countries where he learned to overcome language barriers and visited small villages with no access to clean water or ground transportation. For the entire voyage he sailed with Archbishop Desmond Tutu who spoke with the group about apartheid and what to expect when visiting a third-world country for the first time. Toone says visiting these countries helped lay the ideological foundation for the Senase Project.

“South Africa impacted all of us who are involved with the organization,” he says. “Capetown was a completely westernized city. But if you went 10 minutes out of the city, that’s where you saw the shacks and tent houses. Seeing that contrast was unsettling.”

Back on the Ithaca College campus, Toone is focusing on courses and internships that will give him more experience for aiding in the development of the Senase Project medical clinic. Athletic training may seem a far cry from the kind of medical intervention needed in a third-world country—but Ithaca’s program has an emphasis on general medical knowledge and is giving Toone skills and expertise beyond sports, with a curriculum that includes medical classes and observation hours. Toone plans to broaden his foundation in medicine even further with an internship at the Cayuga Medical Center, where he will be helping with the outreach program.

“I’m hoping that all of that knowledge will translate into basic medical care for the village,” he says.
After graduation, Toone plans to continue work with the Senase Project while pursuing graduate school or an athletic training position in the United States. He also expects to oversee the medical clinic construction in Senase.

“If I can succeed at Ithaca College,” he adds, “I can succeed in other places based on that work ethic, determination, and motivation.”



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