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Director of Service-Learning
Office of Service-Learning
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
Profiles in Service
Graduation Year: 2012
Major: International Relations, French
What types of service/volunteer activities are/were you involved with at Eckerd?
During my final three years at Eckerd I was able to participate in service learning projects on campus and abroad. Into the Streets is one opportunity for freshmen to experience what service learning is all about at Eckerd. My Into the Streets included a full day of service at a homeless shelter. A group of around 12 students helped for the day at the homeless shelter. We folded and organized donated clothes and cleaned an area of the homeless shelter. Every week the service learning office posts about different service opportunities the students can take part in locally. I also helped out by cleaning up at one of the parks near our campus.
Service Learning not only gives you the opportunity to participate in service locally, but also abroad in foreign countries. Through the service learning office I was able to take part in service projects in Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia and Venezuela. Each project was a different range of service that included planting trees in small villages in Burma and teaching English in the slums of Venezuela. The Service Learning Office is an excellent way to get involved in important issues that not only face our local community, but also worldwide. I have been extremely lucky to have been able to participate in these service learning projects.
In what ways did your service experience change you or cause a transformation in your thinking, values or degree/career choice?
The service learning experience has definitely changed me and the way that I make decisions. For example, after participating in service projects I try to live in a more simplistic way. After being abroad for service learning projects I see that families who are living in less developed areas appreciate the simple things in life. For me I get more pleasure out of giving back than receiving. There is no better feeling than seeing a smile on a person you just helped for doing the littlest thing.
Please describe your most significant or important service experience while at Eckerd.
One of my most memorable and important service experiences was when I went abroad for a service learning trip to Myanmar. A group of around 12 students and one professor volunteered with an environmental NGO. We traveled to the Delta and arrived at a small village where we spent five nights. During the 6 day stay in this small village we helped plant trees and gave out school supplies to a couple of small schools in the village. The people who lived in this small village extremely appreciated what we did for them. Even though at times we felt that they were the ones who were doing most of the work, helping us with planting trees. I will never forget the bright smiles on their faces and their curiosities about who we were.
I clearly remember a small girl grabbed my arm and insisted on showing me where she lived. She took me to her grandparents home, which was a small wooden shack that only had a small fire pit for cooking and a small bed on the floor. I immediately thought about homes I was used to in the States. This family had simple items in their house that they used on a daily basis and that was it. I think this was an important part of our service learning because it shows that most of the world around us lives on the bare minimum and are completely content with that. All we needed to do was show these people that we cared for helping them, even if it was the smallest gesture of a smile, they would appreciate it.
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.
When 11 students and I took a service learning trip to Myanmar we met up with our guide who would be traveling with us and showing us around for the next two weeks. Myanmar has been trapped in a strict military regime ever since the country had been colonized by Britain. Myanmar only allows a limited number of tourists visit their country, so most of the country has been untouched by outsiders. It was interesting to enter a country where there is a military regime. We were not too sure of how we should act in a country that has not been allowed to come in contact with much of the outside world. However, after working with the locals with planting trees and distributing school supplies we soon saw how happy these people really are. Burmese are some of the most loving, happy people I have seen in such a strict country.
For this service learning trip we read a book written by female activist Aung San Suu Kyi that described the unjust system that exists in Burma. She has become a role model for all Burmese to try and change the political system into a more democratic one. This is where service ties in to what she has been portraying in Burma. A couple of students even were able to meet her and see the service she has been doing for her country. Her hard service work in Burma has paid off for her country and the military regime has become a bit more relaxed. However there is still a lot of work to be done in Burma.
What advice would you give to other current or entering Eckerd students about participating in service?
I believe that everyone should participate in some sort of service. Starting as small as service around our campus is just as important as going aboard and participating in a service learning project. If you are participating in service learning for the first time, start small and see how you like it. You will be surprised how a little effort goes a long way. Even a smile is enough to let someone know that you are there for them.