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Discover Lasell

Helping Others while Enduring Tragedy

November 02, 2016

The students know him simply as Peter. His goal: to put a smile on each and every face that enters Valentine Dining Hall. It's important, he says, for students to start their day on a positive note.

"What I believe in life is you treat others the way you want to be treated," says Peter Eyong, Sodexo dining hall employee, intern, and graduate student in Lasell's Management program.

That daily, quiet, supportive message from the Sodexo dining hall greeter resonates with Lasell students, and recently, it was their turn to show Peter compassion.

Late last month, Eyong, an international student, husband and father from Cameroon, learned that his 3-year-old daughter had died of a rupture in her stomach in his home country.

The news was especially difficult to digest because he and his wife, who had arrived for a visit and was pregnant with their second child, could not return in time for a burial.

As word of the tragedy spread among the College community, students wanted to show Eyong they cared.

Condolence cards flowed, but the students also took it upon themselves to start early on Eyong's Hunger Awareness Food Drive project - a planned part of his internship with Sodexo.

Within days, the students, including the sports teams, mobilized to collect canned goods and items for the drive. They presented the collection to Eyong on October 24. A very good day for him - as his wife gave birth to his second daughter that evening.

"When my daughter died it was a difficult moment. The hospitality of the students, coworkers, the faculty and administration made me feel like I was at home. I received a lot of financial and moral support," he says. "I was so moved they were concerned about me and helping me achieve my objective."

Members of the Sodexo and Lasell community also helped him schedule and then attended a memorial service at a Catholic church in Medford, where he lives.

Despite the devastating news of his daughter's death, Eyong - with renewed hope - has re-focused his attention on his food drive project, which also includes student trips to volunteer at Boston's Pine Street Inn.

"As a Cameroonian, I have seen hunger first-hand. I see what it means to not have three square meals a day," he says.

The collection for the food drive began November 2 in Lasell's Valentine Dining Hall. The drive will run through November 17. Cans will we delivered on November 21 to the Newton Food Bank and distributed for Thanksgiving - a symbolic choice.

"When you are faced with such a low, then such a high in your life, that he chose to come through the way he did, is a testament to who he is," says Mairead Van Heest, Sodexo's General Manager of the Lasell dining hall.

And, after he graduates in December, Eyong will long remember the support and love he felt from his Sodexo and Lasell community at a very difficult moment in his life.

When he sees his new baby daughter, Yves Mairead Asonyu Eyong, he will be reminded daily. She was named in honor of his Sodexo manager.