The Catholic University of America

Aug. 27, 2008

Architecture Instructor Spends Last Week of Summer at Camp
Three Students Join Teacher Working at Camp for Kids with Bowel Disorders

Architecture students (from left) Fajer Al-Qattan, Leticia Casteneda and Aidan Fredericks volunteered for one week with architecture instructor David Shove-Brown at the Crohn's/Colitis Foundation of America's Camp Oasis.

For the last six years, David Shove-Brown has volunteered to spend one week of his summer with kids at the Crohn's/Colitis Foundation of America's Camp Oasis.

The architecture instructor and director of the School of Architecture and Planning's Foreign Programs and Experiences in Architecture was diagnosed with Crohn's disease eight years ago. Like many other people, "I had no idea what the disease was much less anyone else who had it," Shove-Brown says.

Crohn's, classified as an inflammatory bowel disease, is a disease of the digestive system and can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine and colon and is characterized by ulcers in those areas. Symptoms may be similar to those of Crohn's disease.

Once Shove-Brown was diagnosed with Crohn's, he began researching how he could find support from and offer support to other individuals with this disease. With an interest in helping children, he tried out the camp in 2002. Camp Oasis offers a place for kids age 8 to 16 to meet other children and adults who are in similar situations. Many of the adults who work at the camp also have Crohn's or ulcerative colitis.

In the years since, Shove-Brown has invited his architecture students to volunteer with him. This year Fajer Al-Qattan, Leticia Casteneda, and Aidan Fredericks lent their talents.

"Not many people know about these diseases," Shove-Brown says. "Many of the kids are in positions such as mine where they don't have a real support network. Even their parents don't understand the pain involved. For one week they get to be kids regardless of the medication they are on, the surgeries they have had and how they look. This camp is a place of complete freedom, a place where they don't have to explain what they are going through."

"I was not aware of the disease prior to coming to camp," says Leticia Castaneda, one of three architecture students who volunteered with Shove-Brown this summer. "These kids stole my heart in a matter of hours. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced where my weakness became strength for them, my choice of words became inspiration and each of my actions was appreciated in such a genuine manner."

"I jump in with both feet - dress up for every event, sing, dance and do things I don't normally do," Shove-Brown says. "I think as an older (I'm not 25 anymore) person with the disease who is living a wonderful life with a career he loves, I can show these kids that they can do it, too. They can be silly, laugh, smile and cheer while having a tough card dealt and still succeed."

But while he is working to help the children, Shove-Brown has found he is also on the receiving end. "I find strength from the kids," he says. "I had 12 inches of my small intestine, two inches of my large intestine and my appendix removed in December. The thought of these kids going through this and worse but bounding back to love life, gave me strength and solace."