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Acting Director of Service-Learning
Office of Service-Learning
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
Profiles in Service
Rochester (Hilton), New York
Graduation Year: 2011
What types of service/volunteer activities are/were you involved with at Eckerd?
I did countless hours of service during my time at Eckerd, some required through classes and others which I chose to do myself.
I went on multiple Spring Break Service Trips, one to Guatemala and another to Costa Rica. In Guatemala I volunteered at ARCAS, an animal rehabilitation center. The group of students I volunteered with were in charge of cleaning animals cages, feeding the animals, and a variety of other activities. This was my first international service trip and it changed my life. I decided even before leaving ARCAS that I would be returning there as soon as I had the chance, I ended up returning the next year on a Winter Term independent study. In Costa Rica I volunteered at another animal sanctuary.
I also participated in a Winter Term where I traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma for service. In Burma we traveled to numerous places, several of which were in the Delta region of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River. In these small villages we helped plant mangroves, helped kids pick up garbage along the paths between villages, and brought several schools supplies. We also planted trees, worked on a tea plantation, and worked with Dragon Fruit. In Cambodia we volunteered at an orphanage, New Future for Children, we spent several days cleaning up their recreation area and painted the massive wall which enclosed the orphanage.
I volunteered around St. Petersburg at many places, from picking up garbage at Fort De Soto to working art shows at The Sudio@620 to name a couple. I was also lucky enough to participate in a trial of a Summer Service Trip where we went to Washington state and British Columbia to do trail maintenance in multiple parks and the Olympic National Forest.
Please describe your most significant or important service experience while at Eckerd.
I would say that my most significant/important service was my trip to Burma in 2011. The group of kids I traveled with were amazing. The Burmese people live under a Military Regime, in which free speech does not exist, and where one could be killed for saying something against the government. This has caused many countries, the US included, to impose trade embargo's on Burma. With a struggling economy and a very strict government its needless to say that the people have very little. Contrary to what I thought going into the trip, after reading books on Burma, the people were the nicest people I have met in all of my travels. They would smile and greet you and even invite you into their shops or homes. Their homes were essentially palm fronds for their roofs and siding, and some wood for their floor and many did not even have 4 walls. It was essentially a way to keep them from having to sleep on the ground, and to keep the rain out. It made me realize that even though I lived in a cramped dorm at school with another guy, we were living in a place these people could only dream of. We had mattresses to sleep on, electricity, tv, internet, computers, dressers and closest's with clothes in them, while these people had none of these things, yet every one of them seemed happier and more content than anyone in the group of volunteers. It is hard to put into words this experience, it's one of those things you must experience first hand.
If you are a graduate, what sort of service do you now do?
I still travel all over the world to do service. I first find countries in which I would like to visit, and then search for places to volunteer in the countries while I am there. I may not volunteer during my whole time abroad, although it is a great way to meet new people in a country. It allows me to get to know some local people, and to find out where to go and what to do while I'm there, and give back to the community at the same time. I currently have plans to travel to and volunteer in Australia, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Paraguay this year.
What advice would you give to other current or entering Eckerd students about participating in service?
I would advise everyone to visit Brian MacHarg and the Service Learning intern at the Service Learning office (you may even see me there as I still stop in every time I am in town). Go to service meetings, go to the spring break trip meetings, apply for a spring break trip, do service learning on your own, take a class that requires service learning, do anything with service. I can almost guarantee that if you take a trip with the Service Learning office you will learn more than you ever thought you could, not only about yourself and your classmates at Eckerd, but about the world around you.