SCSD doctoral student receives Moellership Award, will embark on summer of service

Maya Callender volunteering at an orphanage in Ghana.
Maya Callender volunteering at an orphanage in Ghana.

Florida State University School of Communication Science & Disorders doctoral student Maya Callender recently received a Moellership Award from the Center for Leadership and Social Change which will enable her to set off to South Africa in April for a two-month service project.

The Moellership Award, named for its founder Bill Moeller, provides selected students at Florida State the opportunity to focus eight to 12 weeks of their summer to full-time service at a not-for-profit agency.  The scholarship is awarded to students with a desire to create positive change in communities.

Callender’s proposal was for an extended visit at the Durban Children’s Home, an orphanage in Durban, South Africa, where she will provide speech-language therapy to the children and work with the caregiver staff.

“My proposal was along the lines of my interests and research and clinical experience,” Callender said.  “I chose to go to South Africa because there is a high need with the number of orphans there – one in five children in the country are orphans.  I’ve always had the desire to work with children in underserved populations.”

The native of Vancouver, British Columbia, was one of five siblings in a single-parent household, but recognizes how having been reared by a parent who was aware of the importance of early learning opportunities and experiences enabled her to reach her highest potential and is something Callender aspires to do for others.

“I was attracted to the Durban Children’s Home because I feel that their mission is very much in line with mine, given that they desire to empower children and families to be self-sustainable,” Callender wrote in her proposal.

For orphans, the challenges of poor nutrition, limited caregiver interactions and insufficient play and learning opportunities can be a big hurdle.

“As a result, children reared in orphanages are at a high-risk for impeded brain development, and socio-emotional, cognitive and linguistic delays,” Callender wrote.

Callender will also be implementing the “Read It Again!” program curriculum with the caregivers, which is “designed to develop and strengthen young children’s early foundations in language and literacy.”

This is not Callender’s first foray into community service.  In November 2011, she volunteered at the Royal Seed Home, an orphanage in Ofankor, Ghana.

“In increased my desire to work with children from low socio-economic backgrounds and taught me valuable lessons concerning how to become more acclimated with living conditions that are very different from how many live in North America,” Callender wrote.

Callender has also worked as a supervisor at the Florida State University Communication Camp, an inclusive summer camp for young children and in the child research lab with Dr. Carla Wood Jackson.

During spring break this year, Callender will be taking Florida State students to work on a farm in North Carolina that aims to combat hunger by providing healthy and organic food for low-income families as a part of Florida State Alternative Breaks (FSAB).  FSAB facilitates service immersion experiences for students to serve with and in a diverse community, learn about social issues, and develop as leaders and active citizens.