The new Walla Walla University Center for Humanitarian Engagement has opened under the leadership of executive director David Lopez. The CHE will play a primary role in university initiatives related to service that include local and global opportunities for evangelistic and humanitarian work.

The CHE is a contact point for dreaming about new ways to serve and for making progress on existing initiatives such as the Student Missions program, the WWU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, and the annual WWU Service Day. Lopez is initiating cyclical projects as well, such as Saturdays of Service in the local community, and one-time projects, such as summer mission trips.

Recently, the CHE partnered with the WWU Chaplain’s Office to determine how best to use funds received to help with relief efforts in Paradise, California, after the fire last fall. During spring break, a group from WWU traveled to Paradise to help with pressing needs including installing fencing, repairing the wireless internet connection that hosts service for Paradise Adventist Academy, and distributing clean water from the Paradise Adventist Church — one of the only locations in the area with a functioning well of clean water.

The WWU group also helped with impromptu needs including providing translation services, removing debris, serving warm meals, handing out firewood, and sorting donated clothing. Lopez estimates that the group connected directly with more than 1,700 people in the area and that their work saved about $11,000 in labor costs.

Lopez graduated from WWU in 2004 and returned to campus to lead the CHE after 12 years with Maranatha Volunteers International where he was director of volunteer projects. His background in mission work, travel, organization, languages, and conflict resolution brings a unique skill set to this new position on campus.

Through his work with the CHE, Lopez is developing a program that will allow students to obtain a Global Humanitarian Engagement Certificate for meeting specific academic requirements and for boots-on-the-ground engagement in university-organized service opportunities. These opportunities include activities that will train students in logistics and management of worldwide work in outreach and missions.

A CHE advisory panel and mentor groups for students are also being developed to focus on mission-specific grant writing, legal issues, internships, marketing communication, and more.

Lopez has a love for young people and for connecting them to Christ through service. One of his goals through the work of the CHE is to provide opportunities for students to see how determination and faith in God can make the impossible happen.

A community open house for the CHE will be held Thursday, June 6, at 6 p.m. in Kretschmar Hall, room 217 at SW 4th St. in College Place. All are invited for refreshments, a tour, giveaways and to learn more about the center.

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