My Time in Ghana

Fikunmi Idowu

Service-Learning & Community Service

         My chosen STEP project was a 2-week Buck-i-Serv trip to Akokwa, Ghana with the Akumanyi Foundation. Taking place from May 7-21, 2018, the trip entailed me traveling to a local children’s home where the daily experience included helping prepare the children for school, helping maintain the home, and exploring Ghanaian culture.

        Being in Ghana really forced me to be in my head. After the hectic weeks of final exams and moving out, it was great to have the space and time to think and even better that I could do that in a place like Ghana. As a West African, I went into the experience expecting to learn more about a culture similar to mine, but the trip was so much more. With an amazing group, I discovered so much about Ghana, humanity, and myself. We worked throughout the day and reflected on our realizations daily as well, building onto our understanding of how vast the world was and how similar we were as people.

        Our trip started of with a full day layover in New York, a time that helped us build connection as a team. From then on, we had the chance to discover Accra before meeting the children at the home in Akokwa. Obviously, life in Ghana was a bit different, having to adjust ourselves to our environment. Despite the differences, our transition over was amazing due to the excellent leadership that was on the trip.

        Traveling with the cofounder of The Akumanyi Foundation as well as our Buck-i-serv leaders, our group received plenty of care and support, which made us stronger in the long run. I honestly believe that this trip would not have been as impactful with any other group of people. The open, respectful conversations we all had about our personal questions and realizations brought the group together in a very special way. Despite some of the difficulty in specific situations, my fellow volunteers always maintained a positive outlook and strived to be good people.

        After visiting various other projects the foundation was running, I began to understand the capacity of what it means to give to others. Though I was well aware that our trip made a miniscule dent in the work that needs to be done in the country, it really changed my outlook on what provided purpose in life and the non-materialistic joys of life. I found myself questioning the goals I had set for my life and significance of those goals on others.

        In my application for this trip, I was asked about social justice and what those two words mean to me. I basically stated that I believe that many voices go unheard, and not everyone understands underrepresented struggles. As someone with a voice, the ability to help a cause, and the understanding of someone’s struggles, I have the obligation to share their stories. My trip to Ghana was a chance to see and understand someone else’s story. With what I learned on the trip and the future I have career-wise, I hope to be able to direct my future into enhancing other’s stories.

Lima, Peru with CCS

Kaylee Ramsey

Service-Learning and Community Service

For my STEP Signature Project, I went to Lima, Peru with the non-profit Cross-Cultural Solutions. I taught English, reading comprehension, and fine-motor skills to students in a village outside of Lima. We also spent a week teaching about the importance of dental hygiene and how to maintain healthy teeth, which culminated in a visit from dental students and dental check-ups for each student.

My biggest transformation I underwent from this trip almost went unnoticed until two weeks after I returned from my trip. In the past few weeks, there has been a lot of political and social unrest surrounding immigrants to the United States and ICE. As I saw many of the children being taken from their parents, detained, and even people in my hometown being arrested, I began to feel incredibly upset. All I could think about is how these children being affected by immigration were not so different than my own children I was teaching in Peru.  I was so moved by some of these actions that I decided to go out and volunteer in my hometown as well, by bringing non-perishables and hygiene items to those affected by ICE and immigration laws. Before this trip, I’m not sure how I would’ve felt, and I’m definitely not convinced that I would’ve gone out to help back at home either. But, having met these kids and their families and seeing what true poverty is like, I completely understand why people would do anything, including breaking laws, to come to the United States and help their families. Seeing my students in these kids being taken from their families made me realize how real this situation was and it motivated me to act, to try and stand up for those whose voices have been silenced.

One of the experiences I had in Peru that lead to this change was seeing first-hand the consequences of domestic violence. In the village I worked in and Peru as a whole, domestic violence and gender-based violence is incredibly prevalent. One morning, a mom brought her kids to school and was moved to tears because of an altercation that occurred between her and her husband. She told the teachers she was so upset by the violence and had no way to escape it, as her job did not pay well enough and he brought in most of the income. The teacher’s attempted to give her emotional support, they discussed some of her options moving forward, and even asked me to focus a lesson on anti-violence and the importance of being thoughtful and nice to each other.  Although I hadn’t yet connected this to the immigration problems in the U.S., I saw how devastating many family situations can be and I couldn’t even begin to imagine not being able to help myself and my family if I were in a bad situation, but I knew I’d do anything to try and help myself.

My world view also changed from seeing the effects of extreme poverty. Although I have often seen poverty by the United States standards, I had never seen poverty quite on this level. Many people could not afford electricity, clean water, windows, doors, and the roofs were often falling apart. After witnessing the struggle’s faced by these families, I began to understand the magnitude of this problem. Impoverishment was no longer just an abstract concept in my head that I was far removed from, this was real life. I sympathized more with people who have the need to leave their countries to the United States where they could have a chance at a better life because as I said before, I would do do the same thing if I were them if it meant providing a better life for my family.

One of my many motivation’s for going on this trip was to improve my Spanish-speaking skills. I originally chose Spanish as a minor because I really loved the language but, I also found while shadowing in hospitals that often times when Spanish-speaking patients came into the hospital, many of the doctors and nurses had no way to communicate with their patients so a translator was necessary. For many, going to the hospital can already be a frightening experience, add the fact that these people were unsure what the doctor was saying/ going to do to them, I imagine that would be an incredibly stressful experience. So, at that point, I decided I would become fluent in Spanish so that I would never have to add extra stress into some of my patient’s lives. Since I have my Spanish minor, I decided it was necessary that I go to a country where Spanish is the official language. My first day in Peru, I was nervous and overwhelmed. By nobody’s standards would I say I was fluent when I first arrived in Peru but being surrounded by Spanish, it was like my brain just switched and I hit the ground running. Studies have shown that the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it, and after going to Peru I can one-hundred percent vouch for this. By the end of my trip, I was having full conversations with strangers. I learned so many words and understood so much better how sentences are formed and how people speak to one another, I even had multiple people act shocked when I told them I was an American because they could hear no accent when I spoke. The speaking skills I learned while there are invaluable. I also learned that I was so much better at Spanish than I ever would have guessed. My ability to assimilate surprised even me, but I was so proud of myself for being so willing to engage people and learning so much, something I would’ve never done had I not gone on this trip. I have come home a completely different person, I’m so much more confident in myself and my abilities.

I found that I gained the most experience and learned the most during daily conversations I would have with people. For example, my driver to and from the work site was a native Peruvian and only spoke Spanish. To be able to interact with him, I had no choice but to speak Spanish. With a little bit of humility and a lot of practice, I was able to learn so much. By the second week, he was telling my program director that I was a great speaker. These changes were so gradual, but by the end of the trip when I was approaching people on the streets to have conversations, I knew I was a completely different person. Before this trip, I would’ve been too embarrassed to make mistakes that I wouldn’t have even spoken Spanish, but when that was my only option, I adapted and flourished.

Another interaction that really helped me become more confident in myself and Spanish abilities was teaching. At my placement, I was given an hour every day to plan and teach a lesson all on my own. This would be a daunting task even in English, as I’m not an education major, add the fact I wasn’t even teaching in my native language. Being thrust into this position, I had to learn to acclimate quickly. After the first few days, I was having no trouble teaching my lessons in Spanish and I was speaking with all of the kids during class. I realized from teaching that the only way to be successful  with speaking Spanish was to overcome my fears by simply doing.  By being in front of a class everyday for an hour, I was so much more confident in myself as well. The improvement in my Spanish lead to an improvement in how I carried myself. Seeing such a positive transformation in yourself really helps you to see your capabilities and improves confidence by a ten-fold.

The changes I’ve undergone while in Peru will be invaluable to my future. Not only am I more confident in myself, which will translate to almost every area of my life, but I am a better Spanish-speaker, and I have a better view of the world as a global-citizen. My improved Spanish skills will be used here at Ohio State inside the classroom as well as in my career as a healthcare provider, where I will be able to better communicate and care for my patients. Outside of my professional life, knowing another language also equips me to be conscientious of other cultures and is already helping me make an impact in my community and beyond with volunteering. As a global citizen, I’m also more aware and sympathetic to the plights of others around the world. I have a different view of the world which helps me understand things beyond how they appear to the average person from the outside looking in.

Ohio State at Machu Picchu

With my students in Villa Maria del Triunfo

STEP Reflection Grand Canyon Buck-I-Serve

STEP Reflection

  1. The main activities involved in my STEP project were doing service for a Native American Heritage site and exploring the beautiful state of Arizona. The first week of the trip involved creating a hiking trail so that handicap people can view historic Native American cliff dwellings. The second week of the trip involved exploring Flagstaff, hiking through the Grand Canyon, and rafting down the Colorado River.
  2. The trip helped change my views on the world and myself by opening my eyes to how beautiful the world we live in is. The first part of the trip was such a humbling experience in the sense that we were working hard and working together to ensure that people from all over can come and enjoy the beauty of the Arizona red rocks and the Native American cliff dwellings that reside in them. Camping under the stars for that first week was a peaceful and breathe-taking way to end a hard day’s work and it’s something I’ll never forget. Along with these experiences, I now have a lot of respect and appreciation for those that have put in countless hours of work to create the trails that allow us to enjoy the great outdoors.

The second part of the trip was definitely my favorite and I feel that it had the biggest impact on me. Hiking through the Grand Canyon and then rafting through it and living off the land is such a freeing feeling. Every turn had something new and beautiful to offer. However, the best part of the trip was the people I got to go through it with. Our group of campers grinded through the physical and mental challenges that the Grand Canyon had to offer and we all worked to overcome any issues and become great friends along the way. Prior to the trip I was just a small town, Ohio born and raised kid, but I left that trip with 15 great friends and a lifetime worth of memories.

  1. The main interaction that aided in the transformation I experienced, was just how real and beautiful the Grand Canyon was. The rock formations, sheer massiveness, and the Colorado river all helped to make this a once in a lifetime trip. It’s so hard to describe just how amazing the views are. Words and pictures really don’t do it justice. With that being said, the scenery has left such an impact on me that I still have dreams of hearing the river rush by us as we camped under the stars in the bottom of the canyon and for me that was the most meaningful part of the trip.

The next biggest factor that helped in my transformation and experience, was the people I met along the way. Right from the start a group of 7 of us got along super well and are still great friends even after the trip has concluded. We shared a lot of laughs, stories, and memories. Each person was a special character that brought something new to the table and I was really fortunate to have met them all. Without our awesome group, I can honestly say I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed the trip nearly as much.

Lastly, one of the most influential people on our trip was one of our guides named Ethan Shillington. He was the kind of character that enhanced every aspect of the trip. Ethan made the best parts of the trip better, and the worst parts of the trip bearable. He was extremely knowledgeable and taught me all kinds of facts about the areas we explored and also urged us to branch off on our own and learn to live in the wilderness. Ethan really pulled the whole trip together and I can’t imagine anyone better to lead such an amazing adventure.

  1. Our Buck-I-Serv trip was especially significant for my life because it further fueled my passion for the outdoors. Thanks to this trip, I want more than ever to return to the Grand Canyon as well as travel the United States to explore all of the natural beauty that it has to offer. This transformation showed me just how amazing the outdoors can be and what it’s like to live in a completely natural and peaceful environment and to me that’s an extremely freeing feeling that I’ll continue to chase for the rest of my life.

GVI Quepos, Costa Rica

For my STEP signature project, I went on a community service trip to Quepos, Costa Rica with Global Vision International (GVI). On this trip, I helped run a childcare program, as children only have school for three or four hours a day and need additional help to be able to enter the workforce, and I taught adults English, to help them increase their chances of finding a job in the tourism industry, which is a main factor of the Costa Rican economy.

My understanding of myself has changed due to me realizing that I was able to make an impact on the lives of people that I served in just two weeks. This has given me more motivation to help others as I have returned home. My view of the world has also changed, as I saw people in Costa Rica living in poverty and who were much less fortunate than I am, but they were still happy and optimistic despite this. This trip also made me realize that every culture is different, and it gave me an appreciation for Costa Rican culture.

Every morning, I would go to a childcare program, to teach 3-12 year old children English and to play games with them. Here, I realized how important knowing English is in other places of the world, because so much of their economy is based off of American tourism, and it made me realize how lucky I have been to grow up in a First World country. Spending time with the children also helped me realize how much I have been given in my life. Some days, students would show up in dirty clothes and in shoes that were falling apart, but would still be happy and ready to learn and play.

Every day for lunch, my group and I would eat at Eneyda’s house. Eneyda is a woman who lives in El Cocal, the community that I served in, and she is one of the strongest people I have ever met, and cooks some of the most delicious food I have ever tasted. She used to live in Nicaragua, but when the civil war broke out about twenty years ago, she was forced to relocate to Costa Rica. Eneyda, her husband, and their twelve children traveled for five days, with no money and little food, to settle in Costa Rica, and they have been safe in El Cocal ever since. Eneyda is one of the nicest and most caring people that I have ever met, and she continues to inspire me to be as strong as her every day.

Teaching English to adults was an interesting experience, as I know some basic Spanish through my classes at Ohio State, but most of the people I taught had little to no knowledge of English. This showed me how determined the people of El Cocal were to learn Spanish, as this would help them get jobs and support their families. This has helped me become a harder worker, as the people I taught would work very hard in their lessons, after coming home from a long day of work, where they barely make enough money to support their families.

The changes that have happened in my life highly relate to my personal goals. The work I did on this trip and the people that I met have inspired me to participate in more community service opportunities, not only abroad, but at home as well. This trip may influence my academic goals, as I may take some more Spanish classes while at Ohio State if my schedule allows it. Overall, this trip helped me appreciate what I have been given and helped me appreciate other country’s culture as well.

GVI- Quepos, Costa Rica

Name: Alex Verhoff
Type of Project: Service Learnings

My STEP Signature Project entailed traveling to a community in Costa Rica called El Cocal and hoping the kids there learn English and other life lessons that they will need to be a successful individual. We also helped the adults in the community learn English and help them with any other tasks that they needed to improve their quality of life.

During my trip to Costa Rica I can honestly say my eyes were opened to life in a way I had never seen before. The kids in this illegal community in Costa Rica lived in a community that was overtaken with drugs, violence, and a lack of most healthcare and police help that I take for granted every day. They live in danger and I often saw kids younger than four years old taking care of children even younger than that. These kids are surrounded by negative influences in their life and one positive for them is the childcare program that takes place in their community. These kids, though they lived in such a negative place, were some of the brightest and happiest kids I had played with. I assumed they would be different than kids I had seen around Ohio but they were still just kids.

The island of El Cocal and the kids there opened to my eyes to the opportunities that I am given every day and how lucky I am to be given all the resources that I have. The education system in the United States sets up its citizens to be successful people in society. I came to realize that I am lucky to be given all these opportunities for success and that kids, no matter where they are from or their income level, all have the chance to be become happy and successful people.

The main interactions that led be to understand the opportunities that I am given as a United States citizens was through conversations with staff members at the house in Costa Rica who explained the island of El Cocal and the circumstances of the people who live there. The island is an illegal settlement of immigrants so no money can be given to them from the Costa Rican government. This means that healthcare and police force presence is much lower than it is in other places. This leads to drug and violent crimes running rampant. The people that live there go without the things that I take for granted every day.

One example of these things that I take for granted is the education system. The kids on El Cocal are only able to go to school for three hours a day. I was lucky to be able to have gone to school for eight hours a day all the way until college. One of the staff members was from San Jose the capital and he said even in the capital they go to school for around eight hours. It is just this island then, where the kids are only able to be educated for three hours a day. The childcare that I volunteered with, gave these kids another two hours of an educational system that will help them succeed in life.

These kids also live in a community that faces more dangers than I would ever come in contact with. The police force and healthcare in the United States provides for me and my family and I am lucky to be able to see a doctor whenever I need to. These illegal immigrants go without the healthcare that I am so accustomed to. They live in constant fear that a criminal might just decide to attack them that night, or that their belongings will be stolen. I live in a safe community where, as long as I use common sense, I will be safe and able to live how I chose too.

From all these experiences it has been shown to me that I am lucky to live where I am. I will not complain about the schooling that I had to complete because I was able to to be given the opportunity to complete it. I also have a new view on illegal immigrants, and this relates very strongly to politics going on in the United States right now. I feel like I gained a new perspective on life and how to make the best of every situation you are in, like the people on El Cocal. It also inspired me to find those like communities in the United States and see what I can do to help them. I hope that someday, after I have received some medical training, I would like to go back to El Cocal and treat some of the residents on that island for free and help relieve some of their ailments.

This change matters to my future plans for many reasons. In the medical field, I will run into many people like the residents of El Cocal. They may not have health insurance or they may be an illegal immigrant but I know that I will treat them and give them the same experience that a legal citizen should receive. I also learned how difficult it is to communicate with someone who does not speak the same language as me. I learned how to best communicate without words, and to still get the message across to them. Academically, I realized how lucky I am to have gone through the United States education program which sets up its students for success in life. Reiterating what I said earlier, I have a new goal to come back to El Cocal with a medical degree and be able to help these residents who were so kind to me during my stay. I want to be able to give them some medical relief because they are not able to receive that now

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GVI Phang Nga, Thailand

For my step signature project, I decided to volunteer abroad in Thailand. While in Thailand, I stayed in a village that was severely impacted by the 2004 tsunami and got a glimpse at what living in a village is like. As a volunteer, we were tasked with going to local schools and going there to teach English lessons to the children during the week.

Prior to this trip, I have never traveled outside of the United states so I did not really know what to expect. I knew we were going to be staying in a village but I could not really picture what it would be like exactly except for the pictures I saw online. Upon arrival into Thailand I truly underestimated how hot the temperature really was, and was getting worried since our accommodations had no air conditioning. On the way to the base I was in awe at how beautiful Thailand was, but also at how different it was from the United States. The living accommodations as well as transportation were a lot more basic than in the United States. Also everything was significantly cheaper in Thailand than in the States.

Throughout this experience I realized that the materials things do not really matter, after seeing how happy the people in the village were despite how little they had. In addition to that I realized I don’t need a lot of the luxuries at home that I thought were necessary. For instance, I survived just fine without air conditioning and the amenities I’m used to in the states. Volunteering is something that I now want to incorporate into my life in a bigger way, I hope to go abroad again and help those in need instead of just go on vacation-helping others just adds so much more meaning to a trip. On this journey, I feel as though I’ve gained a bigger sense of independence and am more confident in my abilities. Considering I have never been outside of the United States, I was able to navigate my way through numerous foreign airports as well as a foreign country which is something I thought I would struggle with, but now I am so eager to travel again and volunteer.

While in Thailand, our volunteer base was located in a small village so upon arrival we were exposed to village life. The second day there, us new volunteers were taken on a tour of the village in which we were going to call home for the next few weeks. While on the tour we walked to the tsunami memorial and learned how our village was immensely impacted by the 2004 tsunami. 50-60% percent of the village was killed in that tsunami which is absolutely devastating. After the tsunami, relief efforts came and helped the struggling village, but not for long. Relief efforts pulled themselves out of the village while it was still recovering, so to this day the village is not the same. This made me realize how important it was for volunteers like us to be there and help.  While in the village, the locals were extremely friendly and welcoming towards us, which is not always the case when in the United States.

While living in the village, we walked to the schools everyday instead of driving. On these walks I got to really take in my surroundings and see the daily life of the villagers. These villagers lived in very basic accommodations compared to how people live in the United States. And despite having less, these people seemed a lot more appreciative of what they did have. Whenever we walked by they would greet us with a smile and say hello. The simpler way of life in which they lived was something that I really did admire, and upon returning to the United States I re-evaluated what I truly needed in order to live a happy life.

The experience that I know will stick with me forever was teaching the first graders. During the second week of volunteering, we changed the schools in which we were teaching at and were tasked with teaching younger children. That week I was assigned to the first grade class. At first I was slightly apprehensive, since these children were so young and haven’t really learned much English prior to us teaching them, so I thought the language barrier would be an issue, but I was wrong. These children were so respectful, and were so eager to learn from us. The first day of teaching they were shy towards us, but when we played games they really began coming out of their shells. The last day of teaching them, they jumped up and said “yay!”, when we walked in the room which is a memory that will always stick with me. The fact that I was able to teach these children in a way they thought was fun and enjoyable is something I’ll always be proud of. This trip has inspired me to start saving up and to go and volunteer soon in the future, since it was the best thing I have experienced in my 20 years of life.

This trip and how it transformed me was extremely helpful to me in choosing the career path I wish to go down. Prior to this trip I was unsure if working with people hands on and close up was something for me, and I was scared to finally declare a major. But after working with these children and seeing how meaningful it was to help them, I was reassured that I do in fact want to work with people in the future, and plan on declaring speech and hearing as my major. This trip has also inspired me to get involved with more volunteer work, so between undergraduate and graduate school, I would hopefully like to take a year off and travel abroad so I can volunteer and make a difference in others’ lives once again.

 

 

GVI Thailand

Name: Jillian Donnellan

 

Type of Project: Service Learning and Community Service

 

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

 

For my STEP Signature Project, I traveled to Thailand and taught English for two weeks. I taught at two different schools throughout the duration of my trip and was responsible for creating lesson plans. This consisted of making worksheets and different activities every day to prepare for my classes.

 

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

 

My perspective on many things changed over the course of this trip. I not only have a better understanding of myself but a better understanding of the world outside of my own. I have realized I am much more capable of being independent and adapting to new environments than I had previously thought. This was especially prevalent when teaching with a language barrier and still being able to have the kids understand me. My view on the world has entirely changed. With never previously traveling out of the US, I had no clue what the rest of the world was like, but living in a small village that got destroyed by a tsunami changed my viewpoint. I see that people live in much different conditions than me, with much less, but they still make the most of everyday and are grateful for everything they have. This has impacted me and will forever change my viewpoint on the world and will make me appreciate everything more.

 

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

 

The interactions with the children in the classroom led to the most changes I saw in myself. The children I taught were young, ranging from 1st to 4th grade. The students spoke little English and I spoke no Thai, except knowing how to say hello. Having this language barrier, I believed that I would not be able to successfully teach these students and I was very nervous to be left alone to be the main teacher in the classroom. But as each day in the classroom passed, it got easier and easier and I was super comfortable with the situation. Being in the classroom showed me just how adaptable I could be and really helped me step out of my comfort zone.

Living in a small accommodation in the middle of a village enhanced my perspective on the world and how other people live.  Previously before this trip I had never traveled outside of the US, so I had no real expectations on the rest of the world. I lived in a bubble and never really thought about the rest of the world. But traveling to Thailand and living in a village that got destroyed by a tsunami a few years ago made me take a step back and open my eyes into a look at other people’s realities. People in the village had little and I was able to experience living a similar life for two weeks with no AC, hot water, and limited food options.  The locals and the lifestyle they lived showed me you could live successfully and happily on owning little to no luxuries. I tend to take most things I have for granted but after this trip I have come to appreciate the little things in life and have become much more grateful for what I have.

 

Lastly this trip has showed me that I am much more capable of doing things than I give myself credit for.  Like I previously said, I had never traveled before, so I was very nervous for navigating airports and other countries on my own.  It took me almost two days by plane to reach Thailand, with many layover and stops in other countries, which meant navigating many airports. This was really tricky to me at first and I was very panicky and nervous, but I quickly learned and realized it was ok to ask for help if I needed it. Being without family across the world seemed scary and I did not think I would be able to handle it, but I stayed safe and did everything I needed to successfully. Also on weekends we were free to explore Thailand, which meant planning for small trips across the country. I managed to travel to many parts of Thailand, and do new experiences such as ride elephants, and explore caves and small islands, all with few days of planning.This has giving me confidence that I can conquer many things and that I can be independent.

 

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

 

These changes and transformations are very valuable for my life.  The changes matter to my academic plans because in the classroom I have always been on the shyer side when it comes to getting up in front of the class. But now with the experience I had of being a leader and a teacher in the classrooms in Thailand and having all eyes on me, I have gained confidence that I can take into my classes at OSU. Being able to adapt in Thailand with the language barrier will help me academically, personally and professionally, because it has showed me I am able to adapt to new environments and situations easily and am more independent than I believed I was.

 

 

GVI Thailand STEP Reflection

Name: Samantha Loeffler

Project: Service Learning with GVI Thailand

 

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
    1. I spent two weeks in the small village of Ban Nam Khem, Thailand for a healthcare project. During my stay, I worked with the community to teach basic first aid and CPR, taught kindergarteners how to brush teach and wash hands, and assisted center for individuals with disabilities to promote social and mental stimulation, as well as their physical therapy regime.
  2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

 

Going to Thailand, there were several things that I was nervous about experiencing. I was most nervous about going into the country was the language barrier. During the academic semester, I didn’t have much time to learn any Thai before my trip, so I was going in without even knowing how to say a simple “hello”. However, once I was there, GVI taught us some Thai, and that was really helpful, but I also realized that language isn’t the most important way to convey messages to individuals.  I recognized then, that even when I’m surrounded by people that speak the same language as me, I’m so focused on speaking to them, that I often forget to communicate with them. Knowing that there are better ways to communicate and really focus on communication itself, is what I took away most from Thailand, and it’s a skill I look forward to employing in the future,

 

 

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation

 

In Thailand, a large portion of our time was spent in the Camillian Center, a place where individuals with disabilities of all kinds are able to have social interactions and receive physical therapy. When working with the kids and adults here, they don’t speak any English, and some are not able to even speak Thai, which makes planning activities difficult. Ultimately, you have to really streamline your ideas primarily through actions. Breaking down your communication to actions like this really allows you to focus on what is important in that moment in time. In these moments I found myself focusing on the very best way to get my information to these individuals in the best way to help them understand what I was saying without actually having a proper way to tell them what I was saying and oddly enough, it always seemed to work out. Which makes me think, maybe in everyday life, I should stop trying to simply speak to people and focus on the best way to help them understand what I’m trying to say and not just what they’re hearing me say. Maybe, then, there would be less miscommunication in my life and more results.

Similar to my Camillian experience, I was given the opportunity to teach a fifth-grade level class about the organs of the body, specifically the brain. These kids knew some English, so it became about tailoring my lesson plan around the knowledge they already had; however, since I had only just met these children, it was very difficult to gauge what these kids did and did not already know and the level of difficulty that was appropriate. The only way to really know the best way to really teach these kids was to really just jump in and actually start teaching them and adjust the plan as needed. Luckily, I was given only two kids at a time to teach, so it was much more effective method to truly see if kids understood the content and I could then tailor the lesson to fill any knowledge gaps that impeded the kids’ understanding. One thing that was present in all of the kids, however, was that they all really focused on memorizing the content, as opposed to truly understanding the material.

Once I saw this, I could alter the way I was communicating the material to help them focus on understanding the material as opposed to just having to memorize information. This wasn’t the same for each child. Each child required a different way of explanation or quizzing in order to understand what was truly going on. I feel like this reinforces my earlier hypothesis that I should be focusing on how to effectively communicate to individuals, as everyone is a unique person that intakes information differently and does not have a communication style to necessarily match my own. It was because my unique experience with one on one time with these kids that really displayed this to me, an experience that I feel like would have been lost had I taught just a large group of kids.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans

 

Effective communication is a vital part of every single interaction that I will have now and, in the future, whether it is with friends or with a patient diagnosis. On this trip, I really learned just how important is to communicate with people and not just speak to them, which is an invaluable skill to employ. Not only does it eliminate confusion during exchanges, but it also helps to take a step back and to look at problems and situations from someone else’s point of view. Asking questions like, “what about this person’s experience would be the best way to explain a question/solution to them?”, to myself truly makes me able to see things from a new view and best explain myself to other people. I also really believe that my Thai experience allows me to look at people as they are—people—and not just vessels through which conversations occur through. In other words, it really allowed me to step outside of myself and see the world from a new perspective.

 

STEP: Give Kids the World Service Trip

For my STEP project, I went on a service learning trip to Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, Florida. Give Kids the World works with wish-granting charitable organizations like Make-a-Wish to fulfil wishes made by children with serious illness to visit Walt Disney World, Universal, and Sea World. Give Kids the World relies heavily on volunteers in all parts of their operation to ensure that the families visiting have a fun week away from the everyday stresses related to medical treatment.

One takeaway I have from my service learning experience at Give Kids the World was in how despite the seriousness of the children’s illness, all of the children and families that I encountered always had a smile. As the volunteer coordinator that gave me an orientation to the village said, “Give Kids the World is a happy place, not just a place where sick kids come.” I found the kids inspirational through their hope to fight their illness. It also added perspective through how the problems that I have in my life seem small compared to the fight these children endure.

Another takeaway that from my experience is the dedication and passion to service that the other volunteers and employees demonstrated. I found this passion inspiring to continue to serve others throughout my life.

My experiences with the families at the village were the most memorable part of serving at the village. Since I had the opportunity to serve at a variety of locations within the village ranging from food delivery to coordinating a meet and greet with Santa, I was able to interact with the families in a variety of situations. I found that each shift provided a unique experience. For example, one experience that stood out was working at the “castle” where each of the children who have visited the village has a star hung on the ceiling. There are over 100,000 stars in the building. The star represents that the children will always have a place at Give Kids the World. It was a surreal experience because it is both awe-inspiring and sad at the same time because of the sheer number of sick kids that have come to the village. While working at the castle, I helped the wish kids get their stars ready to be hung and helped families coming back to visit locate their child’s star.

Throughout my experience at Give Kids the World, I interacted with some volunteers who volunteer on a regular basis. One of the volunteers that stood out, I meet while I was working at the village food delivery service. She said that she works at the dinner delivery 4-5 nights a week, which is more than she spends at her “actual job.” She started volunteering because she thought it would be a better use of her time than sitting at home after work. I could tell she was “in her zone” coordinating the operation.

I also meet other college students from other universities who were doing service trips during their summer breaks. One of them had been to the village a number of times and travels down from Connecticut just to volunteer at Give Kids the World when she can. Overall, I found the volunteers dedicated to serving the mission of the organization.

This experience was significant for me because I have always been a Disney fan and I have been fortunate enough to be a frequent guest at the Disney Parks. My experiences at Disney have always been memorable times that I have gotten to spend with my family. I am glad that was able to serve at Give Kids the World to allow the wish kids and their families to have a happy week at the Orlando theme parks away from doctor visits and treatment. This opportunity also demonstrated how fulfilling it is to give back to a cause that you feel passionately about.

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

 

I chose to do my STEP signature project in Ghana. I traveled to West Africa with a volunteer program called Cross Cultural Solutions for one month, where I worked in the local health clinic to help provide basic care to infants and their mothers in villages.

 

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

Many of my views have transformed after traveling to Africa. I learned not to pity the people of poverty in Ghana, because they’re not pitying themselves. They have a way of life that has been instilled in them from past generations, and I never looked out the window and saw someone who seemed genuinely unhappy. They love their home and they love each other, they take what they can and do what they can to make it by.

I also learned how drastically different certain aspects of life are in America vs. Ghana. The teaching in Ghana is much different from America, with almost non-existent structure and frequent use of corporal punishment. When the kids did not copy the board down into their books correctly, the teacher who was walking around with a long stick would smack their hands or the back, always making them cry. The basis of teaching here is on reciting what the teacher says or writes, over and over again.

However, one of the most important views that had been transformed was how important it is to notice the little things, and appreciate everyone and everything that enters your life. We frequently shopped at a local art shop owned by a man named Philip, who has had the store for almost ten years, and you can see the pride in his work. One volunteer was leaving and had extra cedi to spend, so she bought 4 large paintings which left Philip beaming. He offered to drive us home and stopped to buy us smoothies as a thank you for supporting his business. It another reminder on how amazing the people are here, and how something you find so small can make a huge impact on someone else.

 

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

One particular event during my time interning in Ghana gave me the realization of just how different our two countries are, and how I have the tools to continue helping once I return to the states.

During a home visit, we traveled to each of the huts with mothers who were pregnant or had small children with them. The first hut we saw had a mother and father, with 2 girls and 1 boy all under the age of 3. The father immediately kicked the kids off the bench and provided seats for us, where we sat down to listen to their problem. Doris (one of the nurses), would explain to us what was going on, and how the two smallest children were sick with what she believed to be malaria. However, the parents refused to take them to the Health Clinic, saying they did not have the money.

This angered Doris, for the father was not out working making the money that could be used to take the children to get treated. Wonder shook his head and explained to us how much children should be cherished, for they could be our future leaders. In the middle of the consultation, an old lady came and dropped to her knees, right in front of me. She started begging and pleading things in Ewe (the local language), and I looked to Doris for help. The old lady proceeded to lay on the ground, and Doris told me that there was a community member who had suffered a stroke and was paralyzed but would not go to the hospital. She was begging me to help her friend.

This was the moment where everything hit me, and I felt the urge to cry in the middle of the village. It hit me that I was in Ghana, an underdeveloped and struggling country that needs help. The parents of the sick children were uneducated, and had no idea that this sickness, most likely Malaria, leads to death if not treated. After reflecting on my day, I decided to take something positive from it. I hope to raise awareness and help as much as I can once I get home, and keep in contact with the people I have met.

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

 

I believe that this trip was a stepping stone for my international travels. Once I was in Africa I did not have much of a cultural shock, instead I was in awe of the country, the people, and the way of life. I was immersed into the villages, and everyone was accepting of us. I learned about kindness, and to always make do with what you have and be grateful. I am not a religious person, but it was fascinating to see how much faith these people had, and even taught me to have some as well. Friendships grew fast, and were strong and meaningful. Without the distraction of social media, I was able to appreciate life and live it to the fullest.

I learned about healthcare at the clinics I worked out, and being able to work alongside the nurses gave me a whole new appreciation of the career. I am excited to become a nurse here at Ohio State, and hope that one day I will come back to this country and be of even more help to the place that has already given me so much.

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