URI’s Metcalf Fellowship winner to help street children in India

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KINGSTON, R.I. — May 31, 2006 — A University of Rhode Island student is combining her talent, her desire to experience different cultures, and her need to give back to the world, thanks to a $4,500 Metcalf Fellowship.

The fellowship, supported by the Michael P. Metcalf Memorial Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation, is allowing Bethany Vaccaro, a philosophy major with an anthropology minor at URI, the opportunity to spend eight weeks in India, six of them in Goa, India helping educate orphaned children who have been rescued from the streets.

�I�ve always felt that the world is such a big place and it is a shame to stay in one part,” e-mailed Vaccaro from Dublin, Ireland where she was completing an internship with a Dublin organization, which helped women involved in prostitution.

Vaccaro was so committed to the Indian project that if she hadn’t won the Metcalf scholarship, she would have taken out a personal loan.

“I’m fascinated by how my life is only the way it is because of where I was born, who I was born to, and what has been provided for me. I am certainly eager to take advantage of my position by aiding those who were not given the same things as me,� explains the 21-year-old URI student.

“Bethany embodies the philosophical spirit. She has far more than academic talent, though she does have that in considerable abundance,” says Cheryl Foster, professor of philosophy and Metcalf Fellowship mentor. “Bethany is sufficiently knowledgeable to grasp that we in fact know very little, and that the world is far bigger and more complex than any one individual’s ability to conceptualize it. As a writer she gives voice to this humility of perspective. It is a voice of startling originality and resonance.”

Vaccaro is an experienced volunteer. While attending URI she was a fill-in driver for Meals on Wheels in Kingston and volunteered as an advocate –working on the help-line and drop-in center– for the Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County in Wakefield. Last summer, she volunteered at Christ Church in East Greenwich.

The daughter of Richard J. Vaccaro, a URI professor of electrical engineering, and Sarah Vaccaro, the URI student grew up in Kingston, near the grounds of the campus. Her parents home-schooled her and her four siblings. She plans to apply that personal experience to help the children in India.

She enrolled at URI in 2001 as a part-time student and took a leave of absence during the spring of 2005 to return to Belgium with her family where her father spent his second sabbatical.

She chose philosophy as a major because she finds it unparalleled in developing things like the ability to read critically and to formulate arguments and articulate them clearly and succinctly. “It has aided me tremendously in the development of my thinking and writing abilities, and this is what I love about it the most,” she says.

She sees writing as her ‘calling’ but finds her lack of experiences limiting. After she graduates in December, she plans to travel if money allows it. She also plans to explore working for a humanitarian organization, such as the International Rescue Committee or U.N. World Food Programme.

Meanwhile, she’ll be writing it all down.

Photo courtesy of Bethany Vaccaro.