Students in the Boise State interdisciplinary course, “Global Citizenship and Social Responsibility,” traveled over spring break to serve and teach the children of Chan Chen Government School in Chan Chen, Belize. The program, led by Tony Songer, professor in the Department of Construction Management, and Karen Breitkreuz, assistant professor in the School of Nursing, is a collaborative effort by the Colleges of Engineering and Health Sciences, the Honors College, and the University Foundations program to provide Boise State students, educational, cultural, and professional engagement and enrichment opportunities. This is the fourth year of a five-year university commitment to send students through this innovative, interdisciplinary course.
The pre-trip academic portion of the class focused on preparing students for their international service-learning experience by studying issues in global poverty, global health-disparity, Belizean culture, and core concepts in teaming, servant leadership, and cultural intelligence. The students teamed up to prepare the construction building project plans, and create lesson-plans in physical education, healthy-lifestyles, arts and crafts, and literacy.
During class, the students completed assessments that examined their cultural intelligence and personal strengths. These assessments challenged them to consider ways to expand their capabilities in a cross-cultural environment. Students were able to reflect on their efforts in servant leadership, teaming, and growth in cultural understandings, and challenged to think about how they may continue to contribute to global solutions in their future careers.
The class raised $4,140 through their PonyUp crowdfunding to purchase the materials to build a lunch pavilion onto the school. The PonyUp crowdfunding platform combines Boise State’s focus on creativity and innovation with a technology that inspires the future. Individuals can support university projects with a variety of need and focus. Donations, small or large, empower Bronco success, learning, community engagement, innovation and creativity.
The students worked during the week clearing space for the pavilion; measuring the dimensions of the concrete slab; mixing, pouring, and smoothing concrete; building a roof; and putting up wood and wire mesh walls. Peacework, a nonprofit organization that works with a variety of universities and corporations on issues of social equality and poverty reduction throughout the world, coordinated with Boise State to ensure appropriate international connections were maintained and that domestic travel details were taken care of. Students and staff from the Department of Youth Services, a Belizean program that engages youth in leadership development, volunteered their time and energy in helping build and paint the pavilion with the students.
When they weren’t constructing the pavilion, students were busy teaching the kids lessons in English and literacy, arts and crafts, physical education, and healthy lifestyles. Topics ranged from the food pyramid to hand hygiene to healthy relationships and basic dental hygiene. The students’ “healthy lifestyle camp” featured many educational activities that were both fun, and relevant to their class.
“The camp allowed the Boise State students time to create relationships with the children and local community,” said Breitkreuz. “The camp ended with a community celebration sponsored by the Boise State Students which included a variety of activities and games, pinatas, cupcakes, and dancing to the beat of Belizean pop music. It’s always a little hard to tell who is learning more, but we know for certain it is always very hard to leave.”
The students were able to appreciate the culture of Belize when they weren’t at the school. Students experienced new foods at restaurants, visited the zoo and Mayan ruins at Lamanai, and ventured to the ocean shore after long work-days. Many students commented on the beauty of Corozal and its culture.
Students presented their projects at the Service-Learning Civic Engagement Student Exhibition on April 28 and submitted reflective essays on their experience. For more information on this trip and to read about the students’ unique experiences visit http://belize-2016.blogspot.com/.