The Cougar Volunteer Spirit is Alive and Well in Charleston

This blog is a project by public relations students at the College of Charleston. Since its inception in 2004, the Cougar Volunteer Spirit has showcased dozens of students who give of their time, effort and hearts to helping those in need. They don't do it for recognition like this, but their stories need to be shared because of their admirable qualities of character and caring. "Be the change you want to see in the world," Mahatma Ghandi said. That's the Cougar Volunteer Spirit that roars through these pages. Click on the side photos to see the articles. See photos of the students who wrote the pieces at the end. Thanks!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

ANNA CANTRELL- Helping Children Worldwide

By Erica Ammermuller

Anna and a rescued orphan at the Children's Rescue Center in Sierra Leone.

Anna Cantrell, a College of Charleston sophomore has had a passion for service for her entire life. Starting with Meals on Wheels in her Northern Virginia town, Cantrell has grown to consider her volunteer work and community service part of her life.

Over winter break while most students were sitting around and relaxing after a trying semester, Cantrell was doing something very different, giving back. For two weeks, Anna traveled to Bo, Sierra Leone to volunteer at the Children's Rescue Center established by her primary volunteer organization, Helping Children Worldwide. Cantrell believes that the best way to help people in need is to show them that you care, and she did just that.

Although missing her time in Sierra Leone, Cantrell has continued to stay involved on campus. She is one of the founding members of the College's Operation Smile chapter. Operation Smile is an organization dedicated to raising money for children with facial deformities. Anna was recently elected vice president of the College of Charleston's chapter.

As is evident, Cantrell is a giving volunteer with a passion for providing her time and service to those in need. There is no doubt that Anna will continue to give back to the local community, nation, and world.


Hometown: Oak Hill, Va.
Major: International Studies
Graduation: May 2013

Volunteer Activities:

My first volunteer activity that I recognize as influential is Meals on Wheels. It’s a service that delivers food for people who are unable to obtain it on their own, whether it is because they are house-ridden, sick, or poor.

I have also been involved in an organization called Helping Children Worldwide (HCW), which tries to give hope to the impoverished children of the world by establishing communities and opportunities for them, and by providing the basic necessities of life. What I have experienced participating in this organization has changed my life. I stayed in Sierra Leone for two weeks and expected to go on my trip and teach these children so many new things. But I came back to the U.S. astonished, because I realized that they taught me so much more than I taught them.

About two months ago, I became involved in the College of Charleston's newly-created chapter of Operation Smile. It is an international organization that raises awareness and money to fix children’s facial deformities. I was recently elected vice president.

What do you enjoy most about doing community service?

More than any of the different feelings and emotions that community service brings about, I most enjoy knowing that some small thing that I may do, say, or donate might change someone’s life. Overall, I think it’s most important to strive for a better world, and service and selflessness are at the center of that change.

What is your most memorable volunteer experience?

During my stay at the Children's Rescue Center in Sierra Leone, I was especially moved by one boy that I met there. Due to the facility's limited space, this particular boy was not a guest. He did, however, stand outside the compound every day, eventually gaining the opportunity to eat with the children. During the civil war when he was 6-years-old, the rebel army came to his village and brutally attacked him, permanently damaging his mental capabilities by pouring cocaine into his wounds. He can no longer speak, but he understands what goes on. The entire time I was there, he wore shoes that were worn through the soles, exposing his bloody feet. On my last day there, I gave him my tennis shoes. I have never seen such pure graciousness or happiness in my life. He smiled for hours, showed everyone his new shoes, and ran around the compound.

How have you benefited from volunteering?

My world has changed entirely since I started volunteering. The biggest benefit that I can recognize is that I was able to reevaluate my life and my decisions. My priorities have changed and I feel that I have become much more selfless and less absorbed in the here and now. I try not to let my wants and desires become too encompassing in my day to day life and with each volunteer experience, my new priorities are further solidified.

What would you tell someone who was considering volunteering?

I would tell them that volunteering has to be something you do that comes from a good place in your heart. Volunteering shouldn’t feel like it’s an obligation or a chore, it should be fun, and should be done because you want to. I would also tell them that the feelings and emotions that they will experience and the relationships they will establish will be much more influential and rewarding than any other thing that I’ve ever done.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I hope to move to Washington, D.C. to work for a non-profit organization that has ties in Africa. With my French minor, I hope to use my knowledge of the language to establish an organization in French Africa that will better the lives of the underprivileged.

To learn more about Anna's charities, visit Helping Children Worldwide online at and Operation Smile at

Erica Ammermuller is a senior Corporate Communications major at the College of Charleston. She hails from Westfield, N.J. In addition to studying communications, Ammermuller enjoys running, reading, practicing yoga, playing with her kitten Louie, and taking in the beautiful scenery that Charleston, S.C. has to offer. After graduation, Ammermuller plans on returning to the North to pursue a career in communications.

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