Softball player teaches healthy habits around world
Dana Capocci is no ordinary student.
Not only does she balance her studies with her role as a UIC softball player, but she volunteers her time to teach healthy habits to children around the world.
Capocci is traveling to Panama in December with the UIC chapter of Global Brigades, a student-led global health and sustainable development organization. She will lead the group’s efforts on child hygiene education. She traveled to Honduras last year on a similar mission.
“It was an amazing, life-changing experience that I wish for everyone to experience,” said Capocci, a junior in communication. “It really makes you think twice about the things we take for granted like hot showers, clean food, clean water and medical care.
“It was the most humbling experience of my life.”
Students in UIC’s chapter of Global Brigades go on medical and public health missions to Honduras, Panama and Ghana. Another group of students will head to Nicaragua in January to provide preventive health methods and education.
“The cool thing about this trip is you go with fellow UIC students so I’ve made many friends and continue to hang out with them,” she said.
Last year, Capocci taught children how to brush their teeth by singing songs.
“Most of the kids have never brushed their teeth before,” she said. “The kids were putting their toothbrushes in the dirt because they didn’t understand the concept.”
A typical day as a volunteer abroad requires waking up at 6 a.m., eating breakfast and taking a bus about 30 minutes to the village. Volunteers work from morning until lunch, take a half-hour break, then continue working until dinner. Although this work was grueling, it was worth it, Capocci said.
“We built environmentally friendly stoves and more sterile bathrooms from scratch,” she said. “We were literally mixing cement all day with our hands. When I came home I slept for, like, a week.”
Even when volunteers weren’t working, they were spending time with the village children.
“They don’t really have technology so we would just let them play on our devices,” she said. “They loved playing with the tablets.”
Capocci set up a fundraising campaign through UIC Athletics where students and employees can donate school supplies, dental and medical supplies and hygienic products. Donations can be dropped off at the Flames Athletic Center through Dec. 3.
Capocci set up a personal fundraising campaign online to help cover the cost of this trip.
After graduation, Capocci plans to study abroad in Spain and hopes to work in the medical field.
Capocci leads a busy life but loves her role as a student and an athlete on the softball team. “It’s a great opportunity and a great responsibility,” she said. “We have three-hour practices every day. My team is like my family and my coaches are like having parents here.”