Archive for the 'International' Category

Sep 14 2012

Thank You for a successful 6th Annual “A Night with an Angel” event!

A huge thank you to all our incredible supporters for helping make our 6th Annual “A Night with an Angel” on September 10th, 2012 such an astounding success. We had over 250 attend the dinner and had our most successful silent auction to date! We hope you were inspired by all the work being completed by young people to make a difference. Emily’s giving spirit is still going strong through others.

Please check our photo gallery for photos from the event.

Below is the inspiring video shown at the dinner featuring our past and present scholarship and ambassador winners and how Emily’s legacy continues to inspire:

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Nov 08 2011

Empowering Women Through Traditional Crafts

We have awarded our 2011 Ambassador grant to Paola del Prado for her inspiring project “Empowering Dominican Women through traditional crafts”. Paola has traveled down to the Dominican Republic with Eileen Specchio’s nursing trip this past March and was inspired to action after seeing the extreme poverty in the country. Her project involves teaching the women of the poor rural town of San Juaquin a profitable trade (making jewelry) and assisting in the sales of these crafts.

Paola in the Dominican Republic

We can’t wait to follow how her project progresses! If you’d like to know more, please visit her website!

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Feb 17 2011

Now accepting applications for our 2011 Ambassador Grant(s)!

The Emily C. Specchio Foundation is calling all visionary youth in the NJ/NY area to apply for our 2011 Ambassador grant. This grant awards grants to young people with big ideas on how to give back – whether it be locally or internationally. All applications are due April 1st.

What are we looking for?
The Emily C. Specchio Foundation is seeking young adults aged 18-25 living in the New Jersey/New York area with a clear vision for a community outreach project to be started/completed within a year of this grant. The project can be designed to help others either domestically or internationally.

How does the Ambassador program work?
The Emily C. Specchio Foundation is looking for inspired young people to embody our mission. The ambassador will clearly state to the Foundation their project goals and mission along with an estimated timeline and funds required. The Foundation will provide mentoring support to the ambassador to help set up a blog or website and fundraise for their cause. The ambassador must present their project ideas and progress at a minimum of three venues (schools, organizations, churches, etc.) in the New Jersey/New York area including The Emily C. Specchio annual “A Night with an Angel” banquet in May 2011. The Foundation will award $1,000 to this year’s ambassador(s), and will match money raised by the Ambassador (up to $2,500) for one year 2 to 1.

For more information and the 2011 application, please visit our Ambassador page.

The full application can be downloaded here as a PDF: ambassador application 2011

We look forward to reading all your great and inspirational ideas!

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Jan 21 2011

An Interview with Anna Lashley, 2009 Recipient of The Emily C. Specchio Memorial Scholarship

Anna Lashley was awarded The Emily C. Specchio Memorial Scholarship in 2009, studied abroad in Lugano, Switzerland, and graduated from Virginia Tech in 2010. She is currently spending five months volunteering at the Mercy Centre in Bangkok, Thailand. The Mercy Centre is a serene haven providing orphanages, education, HIV/AIDS care, food, and shelter to the poorest communities in Bangkok. We caught up with Anna to inverview her about her experience.

Q: How did you get involved with the Mercy Centre?

A: I was very lucky to get involved with the Mercy Centre. I have family and friends who have been to Bangkok and had interaction with Mercy in the past. During my senior year at Virginia Tech I was searching for a place to volunteer, a place where I could work with children in need, and preferably somewhere international. The Mercy Centre was suggested to me and after researching the foundation I realized it was the perfect opportunity.

Q: What are your volunteer responsibilities?

A: Wow, I will make a conscious effort to not let my answer to this question take up multiple pages of writing, which I think it easily could. Basically, as a volunteer at the Mercy Centre, my volunteer responsibilities consist of anything and everything.

This week for example, I worked at a couple different events that were put on both for and by the Mercy Centre. This involves me helping with planning and setting up prior to an event, organizing while at the event, answering any questions that people outside of Mercy may have, taking care of the children if they are also attending the event, and representing Mercy in a positive light. Usually these are a lot of fun, and have allowed me to meet amazing people from international organizations, from the UN, from other foundations, and with interests similar to mine.

I have also recently been put in charge of social media public relations, namely working with YouTube and Facebook. I have created some videos of the Mercy Centre and our children and have been trying to get the word out about our foundation in order to attract more donors and sponsors. (Be our Facebook Friend!)

I have assisted the communication office in creating brochures and pamphlets for different departments within the organization, and doing much of the email correspondence with English speaking organizations.

Of course the bulk of my work, and the most fun (!), is spent with children who live at Mercy or attend school in one of our slum kindergartens. I live in one of the Mercy Centre’s orphanages for young boys, and one main role of mine is to spend time with these boys, give them love, educate them, and help the house-moms in providing a safe, happy home for them. I eat with them, watch TV with them, play with them, take them to various activities, and act somewhere between an older sister and a mother figure to them.

Week day mornings I work in one of the kindergarten classrooms here at the Mercy Centre helping the teacher and attempting to teach basic English to the students (i.e. ABCs, 123s, days of the week, months of the year, colors, etc.). I spend the afternoon doing one-on-one teaching of all core subjects with one of our children who is being home-schooled, and then in the evenings I move  right into more teaching when I tutor our five children who received scholarships to an international school in Bangkok.

As you can see it’s a non-stop job, but I enjoy it every single day. Each week brings something new, and I am amazed at the opportunities and new experiences I have had from volunteering here.

Q: How have you changed as a person from when you first started?

A: Oh my gosh, I don’t even know if I am the same person anymore, it feels like everything has changed!

For one thing, my independence has skyrocketed. I mean, showing up to a completely foreign country, to live as one of two white people in a slum community where nobody speaks English, that’s pretty tough. I had nobody to cling to for help, I was on my own. There was a lot of frustration, loneliness, confusion, communication issues, you name it, but I got through it, and I worked to be accepted into the community. Now I feel like if I can get through this on my own, I can do anything, it’s a great feeling.

I am also a lot more appreciative. There are so many little things that I realize I am lucky to have grown up with that I never even thought about before. Hot water, clean clothes, a bed that doesn’t hurt to sleep in, meals that don’t include rice, living within an hour of my school, not having to share toys with 40 other children. The greatest part though, is that while I’ve come to appreciate these things more, I’ve also come to realize how unnecessary they are. I no longer think, worry, or complain about little things that used to be on my mind, I now understand how insignificant they are, and that the problems I thought I had really do not matter. There are so many more important things that people in the world have to worry about, life essentials such as where they’re going to sleep, what they’re going to eat, if they will receive an education or not. The issues I thought I had when I was back in the U.S. never compared to any of these.

A third major change in me is that I am a lot more learned than I was when I first arrived. I have not taken any classes, or received any instruction, but I have been privileged to an enormous amount of invaluable information. I have learned, from witnessing first-hand, about living in the slums of Thailand, about street children, child trafficking, prostitutes, AIDs, but I have also learned wonderful information about Thai culture, traditions, family life, and the inner-workings of the community. All of this knowledge has absolutely had an affect on me, and has made me a new person.

The other day one of the house-moms criticized me on not bending over while walking past adults who were sitting – as this is a known procedure done out of respect. As she was making the comment she explained that I am a Thai-woman now, and need to do as other Thais do. This is one of the greatest compliments I could have gotten. I have listened, observed, learned, and have taken everything in, and have been accepted into part of the Thai community.

So I guess a shorter way of answering your question would have been: so many things have changed about me that I have adapted into a new, very happy and content person.

Q: You hadn’t had the opportunity to travel much before studying abroad in Lugano. How much did traveling around Europe through the Lugano study abroad program at Virginia Tech play a part in your ambition to start your current position?

A: Honestly, going abroad to Lugano, and having the opportunity to travel around Europe played an absolutely essential part to me getting to where I am now. I had never been out of the country before going to Lugano, and as soon as I began traveling I realized I was never going to be able to stop.

America is a great country, but I think that so many people never really realize how big the world is, and how many things there are to see and learn outside of the it. I was given the chance to acknowledge that what I wanted more than anything was to travel the world and learn about the people, the cultures, and the major issues surrounding them. I don’t want to learn things from books in class, I want to see them, to feel them, to hear about them from the people who experienced them first hand.

Going to Lugano taught me this, and helped me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I can truly say that I do not know if I would be sitting here, in my room in the orphanage in Bangkok, if I had never studied abroad.

Q: What you are doing now reminds us much of something Emily might have pursued post-college. Did your scholarship, interaction with the foundation, and learning Emily’s story help inspire you to travel even more and make a difference?

A: Absolutely! As I said before, going to Lugano was what made me realize how badly I wanted to travel more and learn more about the world, and that would not have been possible without being awarded the Emily C. Specchio Scholarship! However, I not only discovered my love of traveling through the scholarship, I also developed a new sense of purpose.

After hearing about the beauty and kindness Emily possessed, I was honored to be chosen as a recipient of the scholarship. Emily did so much for others in her short life and I really did feel inspired and as though it was my duty to do great good for people around the world with her in mind. I believe that Emily’s family, and everyone at the foundation, select scholarship recipients based on people they think Emily would be proud to have do work in her name, and I hope that I am living up to being one of these people.

Q: What are your career plans and goals after this international experience?

A: It’s hard to imagine leaving my life here and returning back to America to face the real world as a college graduate. I could easily just stay here and continue doing what I am doing, but I suppose I cannot work as an unpaid volunteer forever.

Following my time here in Bangkok I plan to attend law school and focus on international law and human rights. I hope that with the knowledge of the law I will be able to return to Thailand, or another country with similar human rights issues, and make a tangible difference in combating the problems head on. I believe that I primarily want to focus on children’s rights. There are children around the world who need protection, education, and people to fight for them, and I would like to aid in giving them these important things.

From what I’ve seen over the past many months, children in these dire situations really do want to improve their lives. They really want to be educated and do not want to follow in the footsteps of their parents, or whomever was responsible for them being where they are now. All they need is a chance, an opportunity to get off the street, get an education, have a normal life. My career goal, as ambitious as it is, is to give as many children this chance as I can.

Q; How can people learn more about the Mercy Centre and your experience abroad?

A: To learn more about the Mercy Centre people can visit the foundation’s website at . There is a lot of really great information on there about what the Mercy Centre does, pictures and stories about our children, and how people can sponsor children or donate money.

There are a lot of ways for people to help, and the children of Thailand need as much help as they can get. I encourage everyone to look into the information that the Mercy Centre has to offer, and to think about making a donation. I can attest to seeing first-hand that donations and sponsorships really do go straight to the children, and that the people at Mercy do everything they can to give these children a better life.

We wish Anna the best of luck through the rest of her volunteering and future endeavors! We invite you all to leave comments & well wishes below!

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Dec 31 2010

Happy New Year!

2010 was a fantastic and very productive year for the Emily C. Specchio Foundation thanks to your support! We truly have a lot to be thankful for.

With your help, the Emily C. Specchio Foundation has made major strides towards our mission of empowering youth to make a difference. Our accomplishments for this year include:

  • The selection of four Virginia Tech students with excellent records of leadership, scholarship, and community service to award the endowed Emily C. Specchio Memorial scholarship, bringing the total scholarships award since inception to 17!
  • Funding twelve young women entrepreneurs from around the world through Kiva no-interest microloans, bringing our total entrepreneurs supported to 24.
  • Donation of a new Panasonic laptop computer (courtesy of Jay Caldas) to the Mother Patern School of Health Sciences Library in Monrovia, Liberia for the new Masters Program in Nursing Education.
  • Helping Sister Prisca Nwogu, R.N., College of Saint Elizabeth Alum, in her humanitarian project to build a hospital in Evbuotubu Village, Nigeria, which will serve nearly 1 million people who currently have no nearby medical facilities.

Thank you all for your continuing support!! We hope to have an even bigger and more successful 2011. Happy New Year!

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Dec 06 2010

An Interview with our 2010 Ambassador, Janet Latuga

Our 2010 Emily C. Specchio Ambassador grant is awarded to Janet Latuga, a senior marketing major at Fairfield University. The grant will support Janet’s project involving the selling of crafts by artisans from Mayasa, Nicaragua to help support and expand their business. Families that live in the rural sector of this small city have passed on the traits and skills required to produce crafts of varying size, shape, and detail; however, despite the extraordinary talents of the artisans and quality of their products, their impoverished location restricts their ability to sell to bigger markets.

Janet learned of this community through a research project with Professor Tellis of Fairfield, and took on the task of helping the artisans expand their market by importing their crafts and selling them at various events in the US. Janet traveled to Mayasa in February 2010 to meet with the artisans in person, as well as meet with Nitlapan, the microfinance institution that works with the artisans to fund their work.

Her goal with our grant is to allow the artisans to expand their businesses by importing their items to the US and to make this model sustainable at Fairfield after she graduates. We recently spoke with Janet and learned even more about her past experiences, project updates, and goals for the future.

Q: How did you learn of the artisans in Nicaragua and where did you get the idea for your project?

Janet Latuga: I learned about the artisans in Nicaragua from Professor Tellis.  He is an information systems professor in the School of Business at Fairfield University.  He also was the person who gave me the idea to bring the crafts here and sell them at campus events.  My freshman year, he had brought in a selection of the crafts and sold them at one event he ran.  I remembered him telling my class about the crafts, so when he suggested that idea for my project, I thought it was terrific.

Q: You traveled to Nicaragua to meet the people in these communities face to face. Describe what you saw during this trip and how it may have changed your outlook of the world.

JL: Meeting the artisans was an unforgettable experience.  Their houses had dirt floors and wild dogs running throughout the area.  Their houses were all very close together, and they did not have the large property space that can be found in the U.S.  It really made me realize all the things I take for granted.  I never thought about the importance of hard wood floors or insulation.  I take air conditioning for granted, but these luxuries are not afforded to the families I met.  It made me realize that people in America live a very sheltered life.  We don’t realize what it’s like for families in other cultures and countries.

Q: Describe how your project makes an impact for the artisans and their communities in Nicaragua.

JL: The artisans were looking for an outlet in the U.S.  They wanted to find a way to sell more of their crafts to help their business flourish, and my project does just that.  I’m not taking profits from the items I sell.  I use the money from the crafts I sell to re-order more products from them.  They need more outlets to sell their crafts in order to make a living, and I created that for them.

Q: Your goal is to make this project sustainable at Fairfield. How do you plan to make this a reality?

JL: My goal has already started becoming a reality.  I’ve already spoken to two student groups on campus about my project, and I have begun to get volunteers.  I’m also speaking with the faculty of the school of business in December about my project.  I hope that they will be able to get a class involved in managing and maintaining my project.  They recently added an entrepreneurship concentration to the school of business, and I feel as though my project would be a great project for one of those classes.

Q How can others follow your progress and contribute to this project?

JL: I’ve started a blog online at  This is a great way for people to see what I’ve been doing and offer suggestions.

Q: How has the Emily C. Specchio Ambassador program helped you to make this community service project a reality?

JL: The foundation has been a great help to me already.  I just started my blog this year.  I had never even thought of the idea until I was involved in the Ambassador program.  I also was not doing any fundraising before because I did not have the help of a foundation, but now through the program, I’ll be able to raise money to leave future students with enough capital to keep my project going.

The Emily C. Specchio Ambassador program is committed to empowering young people to make a difference. Thank you for you support of our foundation that allows programs like this a reality.

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Aug 30 2010

Building a playground at Kopila Valley Children’s Home

The Emily C. Specchio Foundation is excited to announce a new project and collaboration with BlinkNow, a non-profit organization founded by Maggie Doyne, an alumna of Mendham High School (where Emily also attended school). After high school Maggie traveled extensively and was overwhelmed with the number of orphans growing up in war-torn Nepal. Believing in the power of the individual, Maggie founded BlinkNow and raised the funds to create an orphanage and school for these children in need. Three years ago she built Kopila Valley Children’s Home, where she helps care for over 30 children. This year she directed the construction of a primary school which will provide for the town of Surkhet, Nepal and surrounding communities.

We have decided to partner with Maggie on her next large project – the construction of a playground for the school using recycled materials! More details to come….. stay tuned!

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Oct 27 2009

Announcing our 2009 Emily C. Specchio Ambassadors!

The Emily C. Specchio Foundation is proud to announce the inaugural Emily C. Specchio Ambassadors. We started this program this year to encourage and support youth who have big ideas to make a positive impact on communities in need, whether it be local or international.

Our 2009 Ambassadors are:

  • Vincent Caldas
  • Timothy Mernar
  • Kevin Tolentino

All three ambassadors are seniors at St. Peter’s Preparatory School in Jersey City New Jersey

The winner project idea: “The Prep Micro-bank: A Student Driven Philanthropic Enterprise”

(excerpts from the winning proposal are below)

  • “Students from St. Peter’s Preparatory School in conjunction with our Campus Ministry plan to give funds in the form of no-interest loans so that recipients in impoverished nations can use the principal to begin a business that will contribute to growing a local economy and to get on their own two feet.”
  • “The [loan] recipients will be members of communities where Jesuit and Jersuit volunteers serve, for instance, Micronesia, Nigeria, and Ecuador. These no-interest loans will provide much needed principal for people to start their own enterprises and secure their own means of income, which they will then use to pay back the original loan. This will allow us to continue awarding these loans using only our primary investment.”

Vincent, Timothy, and Kevin will receive $1000 up-front from The Emily C. Specchio Foundation, and will additionally receive 2:1 matching funds (up to $5000 total) for speaking engagements designed to inspire youth to make a difference.

Follow their progress on this deserving project on their microfinance website!

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Jul 12 2008

Charities Supported

During 2007-2008, The Emily C. Specchio Foundation has been very active in supporting Emily’s Charities.Due to your generosity:

  • $20,000 has been donated to the now ENDOWED Emily Carrigg Specchio Memorial Scholarship at Virginia Tech (more information can be found on our VT Scholarship Page)
  • $4,000 has been donated to the Foundation for Peace, a charity dedicated to helping those in need in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Kenya.
  • $3,000 has been donated to The College of Saint Elizabeth to establish study abroad opportunities in Emily’s name.
  • $1,000 to the Reema J. Samaha VT Campus Security and Safety Fund. (Reema was a victim of the 4/16/07 shootings at Virginia Tech and younger sister of Emily’s close friend and PSP brother, Omar Samaha).
  • $500 to the Emily C. Specchio Outstanding Intern Dietetic Award at Montclair State University.
  • $1,000 to the Phi Sigma Pi Relay for Life team at Virginia Tech.

Thank you for supporting the Emily C. Specchio Foundation!

We look forward to doing and giving more in 2008-2009!

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Jul 07 2008

Article on Emily’s Dominican Republic Humanitarian Trips

Emily Special


A very touching and comprehensive article has been published in The Beacon featuring Emily’s commitment to helping others in the Dominican Republic, and Emily’s family (mother: Eileen, sister: Kate, and aunt: Mary Beth) following her inspirational lead in volunteering. Emily’s mother Eileen continues to lead groups to Santo Domingo, DR every summer, and just finished her 3rd straight year of volunteer work in nursing.

The article can be found at:



DR group

Team Leaders in Santo Domingo DR, including Emily’s sister, Kate (far right)

and mother Eileen (2nd to right).

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