Students and faculty traveled to Arizona, China, Cuba, and Rwanda in June 2018 for service learning. The trips were 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.
Students worked as teachers’ aides in the Kayenta Elementary School located in the Navajo Nation of Arizona. They experienced the daily life and culture in the region through homestays with local families. After-school activities for students included camping out on the Black Mesa, rafting down the Colorado River, and horseback riding through Monument Valley.
Trip co-leader Avery Stern watched as students gained deeper cultural understandings through the trip, an appreciation for travel, and a realization of the impact they can have. “I am enjoyed seeing how the students’ expectations aligned with the reality of what we experienced. Full immersion is never the same as it seems on paper,” said Avery. “Service, more often than not, is 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.”
During their three weeks in China, students worked with various groups, including working with populations that have a range of physical and mental abilities. They stayed with Chinese families during their service experience, and had the opportunity to experience Chinese life and culture near and in Beijing.
Deuce Black ’19 enjoyed meeting his host brother, and helping his classmates with translating during the trip. “I was talking with my host brother since January, and it was great to him in person,” said Deuce. “I was also excited to work with the children in the orphanage and the special education school.”
George School students helped in the major reconstruction of a church in Holguin, worked in an urban hydroponic garden, and visited a community orphanage and a school for the blind and deaf during the Cuba service learning trip. In addition, students also visited the city of Santiago, the Quaker community in Gibara, the historic town of Bayamo, and the beach at Guardalavaca.
Students participated in the Alternatives to Violence Project, a program focused on community building and conflict resolution, alongside Rwandan teenagers. Participants also landscaped a local Quaker school, trained community residents in basic computer skills, and explore the wildlife and local terrain at two national parks. Other activities included visiting a women’s art cooperative,the Rwandan Genocide Museum, and a Friends Church, which were combined with discussions about Rwanda’s history.
“East Africa is a special place in the world, and I excited to share it with students,” said trip co-leader Polly Lodge. “The geography, the food, and the wildlife are all unique. Our students found visiting the place of such a horrific genocide to be profound, and yet we were surprised by people’s resilience. Our students gained some historic context and left Africa better able to put our privileged lifestyle into perspective,” said Polly.
“I was excited to work at a library in Rwanda because I can give back to the community in a way that is personally meaningful to me,” said Jeffrey Love ’19. “At the museum, I got 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 also went on safari to see golden monkeys, which is something I have never done before. I love animals and science, and hope to become a botanist one day.”