By Suzie Roth
Co-Managing and Advertising Editor
When Saint Mary’s University senior Ania McNamara studied abroad in 2009, not even she could predict the impact it would have on her in the time that followed.
In the spring of 2009, McNamara took part in a study abroad program to Italy. Before returning to the United States, McNamara seized the opportunity to return to the Dom Dziecka Orphanage in Chotomow, Poland, where she and her three biological sisters spent the first four years of their lives. McNamara, along with her three sisters, was adopted by SMU alumni Grace ’76 and Bill ’77 McNamara in 1996.
As soon as Ania McNamara arrived at the orphanage in 2009, she was recognized by the nun who helped raise her. After touring the orphanage, McNamara felt compelled to find a way to help.
“So many children grow up blessed, but I remember being an orphan, so it sparked my interest to help children abroad, especially because I used to be one of those orphans,” said McNamara.
It was after her visit to her first home that McNamara had the idea to start a fundraiser, “I wanted to give [the children] something special on that Christmas,” said McNamara.
Thus, the Chotomow Children’s Fundraiser was born. In the winter of 2009 McNamara, along with SMU students Nikki Kolupalio, Allyson Friestleben, and Bailey England, raised money to send 30 individualized Christmas gifts, fleece blankets, Christmas cards and candy bags to the 30 children who lived in the orphanage, ranging in age from three to 18. The response from the orphanage of the gesture and efforts of the fundraiser was filled with “gratitude, appreciation and awe” said McNamara.
This past summer, McNamara kept looking to find a way to continue to reach out to orphans in the country of Poland. She finally found the answer: to begin a non-profit organization.
Since then, she has begun the efforts to acquire 501(c) 3 status for the Chotomow Children’s Foundation, the charitable non-profit organization she founded. Upon receiving this status from the United States government, the organization will have the opportunity to start additional projects overseas and follow their mission to “enrich, educate and give hope to the lives of orphans while supporting and encouraging foreign adoption.”
It is McNamara’s infusion of energy and eagerness to make a difference that has not only led to the organizations’s creation, but the return of the Chotomow Children’s Christmas Fundraiser.
McNamara, along with an advisory board made up of current SMU students, has begun work to create another joyful Christmas for children at the Dom Dziecka Orphanage in Poland. With a theme this year that encompasses love, McNamara hopes to share love with children abroad, especially during the Christmas season.
Those who wish to help in the fundraising efforts are encouraged to email McNamara at
AIMCMA07@smumn.edu. Those interested in donating to The Chotomow Children’s Fundraiser can send contributions to “Chotomow Children” at campus box # 1268.