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Host Family Program Participants Write Cards to Sick Children, Parents at Cardinal Glennon

About 55 students and families took part in the host family program’s service project on Thursday, Oct. 20, to write cards to sick children and their parents at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.

Leah Sweetman and Zhaolian Lu

Leah Sweetman, Ph.D., and Zhaolian Lu, international doctoral student in the College of Arts and Sciences, display some of the cards they created during the service activity.

The office of international services sponsored the service project, which was the first time for the host family program group to spearhead the activity. The goal was to bring hope to the children in the hospital and their families.

"[The activity] was new for me and I got a good experience,” said Andrea Fernandez De La Morena, an international student in Parks College. “I felt very well, imagining how could be the child's face while seeing my drawings (some animals in the jungle with support phrases such as: ‘You're strong!’ or ‘Don't forget how awesome you are!’). It took me some minutes to draw, and their smiles don't have price. I'd do the same again without doubting."

For international students, engaging in service is a way to learn more about different cultures, improve communication skills and build community with fellow students as well as residents of the greater St. Louis region, said Leah Sweetman, Ph.D., assistant director for service-learning in the Center for Service and Community Engagement and participant in the host family program.

“We can all relate to a time when a loved one was seriously ill and in the hospital,” Sweetman said. “Having students write cards to the children and their families is a compassionate project that can bring some joy at a time when things are otherwise tough.  Because service permeates the mission and culture of Saint Louis University, it only makes sense that our international students participate in that formative experience as well.”

Find more information about the host family program online, or contact Lulu Dong, Ph.D., international adviser, at or 314-977-4082.