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Acting Director of Service-Learning
Office of Service-Learning
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
Profiles in Service
Graduation Year: 2010
What types of service/volunteer activities are/were you involved with at Eckerd?
I was involved in service learning in Burma, Laos, Thailand, Germany, India, Ukraine, Rwanda, Ethiopia, as well as several on campus service learning activities.
In what ways did your service experience change you or cause a transformation in your thinking, values or degree/career choice?
I cannot over emphasize the positive effects Eckerd service learning has had on my life. Service has given me more confidence in my abilities, has made me a more grateful person, as well as profoundly affected the way I look at my future and goals. My way of thinking of the world has expanded to incorporate global justice, empathy, and patience. Before going on service learning trips I was more focused on the monetary value of life, and now I have shifted the focus onto what I can do for others.
After my first trip with service learning I changed my major to anthropology so I could use the skills I gained from my service and apply them to real world situations of food scarcity and development. I highly recommend any program, whether it be local or international, to all Eckerd students. Doing service is a priceless experience that will transform your view of the larger community, and give you a sense of belonging and appreciation. Furthermore, you end up sharing an everlasting bond with the people you do service with. Looking into my address book of friends, I can honestly say, I met a vast majority of my closest friends on service trips. Friendships created with people while being in new, exciting, and many times uncomfortable situations are the ones that end up lasting the longest. I am truly thankful for the people I met as well as the experiences shared with my fellow Eckerd students.
Please describe your most significant or important service experience while at Eckerd.
There are way too many service experiences that have transformed the way I think today. In many of the cases the people we are supposed to be helping are in fact helping us. It's often the smallest acts of kindness that make the biggest difference. For example, in Ethiopia while walking in the woods a woman came and warned me about hyenas in the area. She guided me to her shack in the woods, ground some of the very few coffee beans she had on in her house, and made me fresh coffee on her kitchen floor. I had nothing to offer this woman in return, nor did she expect it. These are the experiences that change your life. It's the selflessness of people that is truly inspiring. It's really people like this woman that changed my pessimistic view of human nature, and encourages me to continue to offer anything I have in my possession, even if its my last handful of coffee beans.
If you are a graduate, what sort of service do you now do?
I am now doing a masters in Development Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This is directly due to my experiences with service learning at Eckerd College. I feel it is an extension of the work I did with Eckerd abroad and I will continue as long as possible in the field.
Service and justice are two topics that can generate stimulating thought and discussion. Describe a time, event or interaction that really engaged your thoughts on service and justice.
I feel that doing service internationally creates a certain amount of frustration, in that you are thrown into dramatically unfair and unjust circumstances. Examples include the strict military regime of Burma, the countless overcrowded and understaffed hospitals full of helpless children in Africa, and the abundant food shortages and social problems in India. The frustration comes from not being able to do much with the time allotted, and the fact that you are physically unable to solve the problems that are thrown in your face. From the frustration comes the will to change these things, on whatever small scale, and fuels the passion for social justice. From this passion I have continued not only being active in the community, but also educating myself on the root causes of many social problems.
Personally I don't think true justice will ever come to the communities we have serviced, the roots are deep and the cracks are many. However, one example that comes close is that of my first service trip to Burma. On my first service trip to Burma the military regime was still in power and Aung San Suu Kyi was still under strict house arrest. While traveling many books were restricted and certain words were prohibited to be spoken. During my time at Eckerd I continued to follow the struggles of the Burmese citizens. In the past year there has been dramatic changes in the area and I have felt an overwhelming amount of pride in the Burmese for overcoming the oppression of the regime. It over joys me to see Aung San Suu Kyi freed and once again head of the pro-democratic party of Burma. This is the sort of justice that comes on very rare occasions and I have been lucky enough to follow and witness it. I wouldn't have known or likely cared, if I hadn't been involved in Eckerd's service learning program.
What advice would you give to other current or entering Eckerd students about participating in service?
DO IT! Do it even if you're… uncomfortable, selfish, don't like to travel, have a boyfriend you don't want to leave, don't have that much money, awkward, have poor self esteem, never heard of the countries your doing service in, don't speak a different language, get homesick, get seasick, get carsick, don't know anyone on the trip, feel uneasy in new situations... Whatever the excuse is, forget about it and sign up.