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Ronald Porter
Acting Director of Service Learning

Eckerd College
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Service Learning

Service Learning

Burma: Winter Term 07


View photos from Burma

15 students traveled to Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Thailand this January to explore issues of service and freedom for their Winter Term.

The class visited various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) while in south-east Asia. In Bangkok, the group heard a presentation on the Burmese refugee situation in Thailand from the Thailand Burmese Border Consortium as well as a talk on the trafficking of Burmese people from the NGO Ending Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism. The class was welcomed by the US Embassy in Bangkok where they received a briefing on the US' stance toward Burma from the chief political liaison at the embassy. The class also met with the director of human resources for embassies in south-east Asia to hear about careers in foreign service.

After two days in Bangkok, the class traveled to Burma where they spent the majority of their time. The group traveled by boat to remote portions of the Irrawaddy Delta where they worked with villagers to paint a schoolhouse, repair a road, clear footpaths, and help farmers plant mangroves. The work in the delta was organized by the Burmese NGO FREDA.

Following their time in the Delta, the class was joined by group of Burmese high school students who wanted to interact with American college students. The joined group traveled into the Bago Yoma Mountains where they worked under the guidance of a physician to build a clinic in a remote Karen hill tribe village.

Following the service work in Burma, the group was also able to see sites of cultural significance such as the ancient city of Bagan, the Schwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, and various dance and music performances.

While in Burma the class explored issues of freedom and how service-learning can be effective in combating the many social ills of the country. The class read texts by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and also George Orwell's famous book on British colonialization Burmese Days. Students met regularly to think critically about their experiences and to talk about the texts.

Following their time in Burma, the group traveled to Vientiane, Laos where they performed three days of service work with literacy NGO called Room to Read. The students helped prepare books for distribution to village schools and they also had visits from two other NGOs, Village Focus and the Mennonite Central Committee.

The group was in Asia from January 2nd through January 25th.

Brian MacHarg
Director of Service Learning

View photos from Burma

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