Summer Service Trips Provide Cultural Exploration

“I hope we all learn that service can more often than not be less about the physical impact you have on a space, but the knowledge and awareness you bring home and how you intentionally spread that knowledge," said Avery Stern, Arizona co-trip leader.

As the school year winds down, students and faculty are preparing for summer service trips this June to Arizona, China, Cuba, and Rwanda. The service trips present opportunities for students to give back to communities, explore different cultures and new regions, and apply the Quaker values they learn at George School through helping others and becoming global citizens.

Arizona

Students will work as teachers’ aides in the Kayenta Elementary School located in the Navajo Nation of Arizona. They will also be able to experience the daily life and culture in the region through homestays with local families. After-school activities for students might include camping out on the Black Mesa, rafting down the Colorado River, or horseback riding through Monument Valley.

Trip co-leader Avery Stern is hoping that students gain deeper cultural understandings through the trip, appreciation for travel, and a realization of the impact they can have. “I am most looking forward to seeing how the students’ expectations align with the reality of what we are about to embark on. While they have seen videos and read articles on life in Navajo, full immersion is never the same as it seems on paper,” said Avery. “I hope we all learn that service can more often than not be less about the physical impact you have on a space, but the knowledge and awareness you bring home and how you intentionally spread that knowledge.”

China

During their three weeks in China, students will perform service with various groups, which may include working with populations that have a range of physical and mental abilities. They will stay with Chinese families during their service experience, and have the opportunity to experience Chinese life and culture near and in Beijing.

Deuce Black ’19 is eager to meet his host brother, and work on translating during the trip to China with his classmates.

“I have been talking with my host brother for a while now since around December or January, and am looking forward to meeting him in person,” said Deuce. “I am also excited to get to work with the children in the orphanage and the special education school.”

Cuba

George School students will help in the major reconstruction of a church in Holguin, work in an urban hydroponic garden, and visit a community orphanage and a school for the blind and deaf during the Cuba service trip. In addition, students will also visit the city of Santiago, the Quaker community in Gibara, the historic town of Bayamo, and the beach at Guardalavaca.

Rwanda

Students will participate in the Alternatives to Violence Project, a program focused on community building and conflict resolution, alongside Rwandan teenagers. Participants will also do landscaping at a local Quaker school, train community residents in basic computer skills, and explore the wildlife and local terrain at two national parks. Other activities include going to a women’s art cooperative, attending the Rwandan Genocide Museum, and a Friends Church, which will be combined with discussions regarding Rwanda’s history.

East Africa is a special place in the world, and I am excited about sharing that with students,” said trip co-leader Polly Lodge. “The geography, the food, and the wildlife are all unique. I think students will find visiting the place of such a horrific genocide to be profound, and yet we may be surprised by people’s resilience. I hope students gain some historic context and perhaps will be better able to put our privileged lifestyle into perspective,” said Polly.

During the Rwanda trip, Jeffrey Love ’19 is looking forward to the cultural exchange, doing service at a local library, attending the Rwanda Genocide Museum, and going on a safari.

“I am excited to be working at a library in Rwanda because I can give back to the community in a way that is personally meaningful to me. A library is somewhere you can really educate others,” said Jeffrey. “At the museum, I am hoping to get a sense of what happened during the Rwandan Genocide, and how the country has grown and developed from that through lessons of argument resolution.”

“We are also going on a safari, which is something I have never done before, to see golden monkeys. I love animals and science, and hope to become a botanist one day.”

You can follow the trip leaders and students as they share blogs, photos, and videos of their trips and experiences on the George School blog, and on Instagram.