Dana Wilder '17
SHC Italy Center
Spring Hill College alumni change the world around them everywhere they go. From serving underrepresented populations in local communities to greeting refugees on the shores of Italy, Badgers are making a global impact by fulfilling the mission of Spring Hill College. Dana Wilder ’17 is one such alumna — a recent graduate who assisted refugees landing in Brindisi, Italy, through an internship with the Spring Hill College Italy Center.
While many college seniors struggle with what to do after their final walk down the Avenue of the Oaks, Wilder departed The Hill with a plan for how to make a difference in the world.
Wilder unearthed a calling while studying abroad at the SHC Italy Center during her junior year of college. She explains, “The SHC Italy Center removed the glazed lens and showed us the raw world, both good and bad, beautiful and ugly. That set the spark within me. I saw that I could make a difference through service.” When the Italy Center directors established an internship program, they knew Wilder would be a great fit to begin this unique and revolutionary program upon her graduation. After prayerful consideration, she said “yes.”
Throughout the internship, Wilder assisted local activists at the Caritas community, an international Catholic agency that serves the poor and promotes charity throughout the world. There, she helped provide daily meals and various forms of assistance to migrants and low-income Italians. She spent the rest of her time with CARA, an identification center for immigrants seeking to stay in Italy or obtain political refugee status. These immigrants arrive without documents and Wilder, along with a team of psychologists, interpreters, cultural mediators, language teachers and legal facilitators, helped to meet their needs upon their entrance to Europe.
Wilder’s time on the frontlines was filled with the learning experiences that come from comforting a child whose brother did not make it through the long journey at sea; seeing young men with the skin on their legs peeling from the severe burns incurred while their boat was in flames; and watching people in town look upon these men, women and children as if they were not human. She saw personhood in its purest, rawest forms, and her hope is that people everywhere will begin to look for it too — to treat others with respect, regardless of circumstance.
Wilder believes that the most natural way to understand the refugee crisis is through human connection and experience. She said that, though being able to serve others doesn’t require a college degree or specific skills, she is grateful to Spring Hill College’s commitment to education and the Jesuit tradition of learning not what to think, but how to think. “By staying educated,” she explained, “we can better serve others.”
Wilder’s experiences propel her forward as she discerns her future. She remembers standing at the Brindisi port, watching with tears in her eyes as 402 migrants arrived and descended from the boat. She remarked, “These are moments that overwhelm me with the feeling of God looking down on me, reminding me that I am on the correct path of doing His will. I am constantly seeking more moments like this.”
For more insight into Wilder’s summer internship with the SHC Italy Center, you can read her blog at www.thechameleontale.com or follow along on Instagram @thechameleontale.