Community Service Learning Trip 2009
Where: Sonsonate, El Salvador
When: 2009 February Reading Break
Who: 11 Undergraduate Students living in Residence and team leader, Chelsey Evans, Coordinator for Student Engagement and Learning
What: During the course of the week the group worked on building the foundation of a typical Salvadorian house made of cement and rebar. The students dug trenches, moved large piles of dirt and rock, carried bricks, mixed cement, installed bricks and secured rebar into the foundation. The students accomplished in 5 days what it would typically take the local masons working on the house in 2 weeks to accomplish without the students help. Throughout the week they had the opportunity to connect with the family that we were building for, which was a very valuable part of the experience.
Another great part of the trip was that students were able to experience a new environment and culture. Activities that happened during the week included: visiting local restaurants to taste traditional Salvadorian cuisine, going to the beach and swimming in the ocean, visiting local produce and flea markets, visiting a local church, going to rival political party headquarters and speaking to representatives of the parties, learning to make the traditional Salvadorian food “Pupusas” and listening to Mariachi Players in Mexico City. After one hard work day the students got a very special treat when they each had hour long massages at a local Salon!
The entire experience was fantastic! It provided students with an opportunity to apply some of the skills they were learning in the classroom to the real world. One of the most important parts of the experience was certainly the reflection component. At nights we would sit around a camp fire and have lengthy group discussions, sometimes lasting 2 to 3 hours. Discussions focused on what students were learning and experiencing and how it could be applied to their own lives and communities.
The students showed incredible growth during this time and truly became better global citizen as a result. Each student was given a journal that enabled them to comment on their experiences and engage in individual reflection. There were certainly emotionally charged discussions and an incredible amount of personal and collective growth that occurred throughout the week.