By immersing students in another culture to volunteer for positive social change, they will be better prepared to look critically at their own community and work to make it a better place. We are seeking to provide our students with the opportunity to do just that.
Global service-learning provides students with an opportunity to learn while working on a meaningful volunteer project that addresses an authentic community need in a foreign country. Ecuador is a country that has many of the same extremes as the United States. While volunteering in Tumbaco, we saw mansions surrounded by walled gardens and staffed by round-the-clock guards. Just down the road, people live in dire poverty. During our trip, we often questioned our role as tourists; are we contributing in meaningful ways to the local economy, or are we supporting the wealthy through patronizing businesses that are geared mainly towards tourists? The line between development and gentrification is blurred, as it is in many cities within the Hudson Valley.
The problems presented by the poverty rate are familiar to our students. While traveling, we visited an organization called Casa Victoria, a grassroots community betterment program located in the struggling San Roque neighborhood of Quito. Because one of the central goals of our trip is to help our students see an example of what a few dedicated individuals can do to make the world a better place, Casa Victoria seems the perfect setting. Our students will work with the sixty children who attend their after-school program, where they are fed a hot meal and provided with homework help and a safe place to spend their afternoons. This opportunity will provide our students with the chance to design a service project that aligns with their interests, and the needs of the program, such as improving the classroom library, teaching computer skills, or fundraising to donate a robot and teach basic robotics. The problems presented by the poverty rate are familiar to our students.
Our Global Service Learning program has yearly requirements for participation and builds towards a trip to Quito during the summer after the students’ eleventh grade year.