The Lilly sustainability grant program includes funds to “build upon St. Olaf’s longstanding tradition of looking outward internationally, to provide opportunities for service-learning abroad which will encourage students to reflect on their faith and lead them to live out their vocation in context of ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.”
Specifically, this translates into summer international service-learning opportunities for students in church-related or service-based institutions. The goal is to connect these service activities to academic work, involving a faculty or staff mentor to organize the experience, coordinate the experiential learning with the academic learning through readings and reflection, and bring the experiences back to campus to enlighten and enrich the St. Olaf learning environment.
This past summer, Professor Dave Van Wylen led a group of students on a four-week global health and service learning trip to Tanzania. They traveled with an Ole alumnus who is an infectious disease and tropical medicine specialist, Bill Stauffer, M.D. The focus of the trip was to have the students explore their own medically-based vocations in the context of the developing nation. Their visit encompassed multiple experiences including shadowing in hospital settings, working with a hospice program, volunteering at a school, visiting a medical school, building a water collection system, and playing with children recovering from orthopedic surgeries. To read more about their story, click here!
Human Rights and Social Service in Modern Egypt was designed for students who are broadly interested in exploring how international service, faith, and personal vocation are interconnected. St. Andrew’s Church hosted staff members Jenny Howenstine ’98 and David Wagner ’03 and five current St. Olaf students: Maipacher Her, Scott Krepsky, Andy Lithio, Arwa Osman, and Mira Yoon. Students served as English tutors in The Adult Education Program of St. Andrew’s Refugee Services Program in the afternoon.
St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in central Cairo has developed innovative outreach ministries for Sudanese refugees who have fled the Sudan and are living in Cairo. In the morning, students served at the Association for the Protection of the Environment. The organization is located in Garbage City, which is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Cairo and was started to benefit the families of the garbage collectors. Women are empowered to work and there are educational opportunities for the children. The group worked on a variety of projects at A.P.E. Over the three weeks they painted three classrooms, taught English to children, helped in the nursery, and assisted with activities for the children at the summer school.
Sara Fruehling, Assistant Professor of Biology, led a group of five students to Chennai, India, to work with the InterChurch Service Agency at their invitation. Students assisted ICSA in upgrading their computer training program for disabled students and worked on health and human services projects coordinated through ICSA. One of these projects involved expanding a medicinal garden to enable the organization to market nontraditional herbal medicines.
ICSA and St. Olaf College have been in partnership since the mid-1980s. ICSA is a Christian church organization with a mission to serve the Christian community and the marginalized in South India. Sara Fruehling has been involved with the program since 1991.
La Iglesia Cristiana Luterana de Honduras was host to staff member David Wagner ’03, Assistant Director of Annual Giving, and six current St. Olaf students during a three-week service-learning trip to Honduras this June. Alumna Lindsay Mack ’02 facilitated the experience in Honduras, which focused on service to congregations and communities throughout the country.
Service learning involved volunteering with the Health for Life program, leading and participating in worship, working with youth and women’s groups, engaging in fellowship, participating in educational programming sponsored by churches, volunteering at a local kindergarten, and interacting with pastors and leaders in local communities. Students had the opportunity to reflect on personal vocation by journaling, leading conversations, and facilitating educational activities that are related to their own area of study.
The group traveled extensively throughout the country to develop awareness of the different roles that the Lutheran Church and other organizations play in working with communities and dealing with different social issues in the diverse regions. A wide range of experiences throughout the country helped broaden the perspective of the program so students could explore connections to their personal vocation in varied settings. Click here for photos and essays.
Luyen Dinh Phan ’92, former International Student Adviser and Associate Director of Admissions, led a group of St. Olaf students to Thailand where they worked with the McKean Rehabilitation Center in Chiang Mai in order to understand how non-governmental organizations work to improve the lives of the people they serve.
The McKean Rehabilitation Center is named after its founder, James W. McKean, an American missionary surgeon who went to Chiang Mai in 1887. McKean's initial work was with leprosy patients. Today the McKean Center continues to work with leprosy patients but also with Thai citizens facing a variety of diseases and disabilities.
The group worked with disabled elderly who reside in the Buraphaniwet Village. Many of these elderly patients have no homes or families. Luyen and his students provided non-critical nursing care to the residents, including but not limited to cleaning, feeding, helping with physical activites, and helping the patients attend church or temple services.
Ingria Pilgrimage, Russia
Dr. Paul Niemisto of the Music Department led a group of eight St. Olaf students on a Lilly Foundation sponsored International Service Learning Project to the Ingrian region of western Russia.
The group was involved in a number of volunteering activities in local Ingrian Lutheran congregations including youth summer camp leadership, English language instruction, music making, simple construction and maintenance jobs, and other similar tasks.
Professors Anne Walter and Matt Richey took six students to Chennai South India during August, 2005 to work with the InterChurch Service Association (ICSA). The opportunity to work with ICSA was a result of the College's long relationship with ICSA via the Biology in South India off-campus program. The students worked in teams on three different projects. Matt Richey supervised project which modernized the curriculum for ICSA's computer training program for disabled students. Anne Walter supervised the other two projects, both in support of ICSA's Essential Drug Program through the Comprehensive Medical Services India (CMSI) program.
The Peruvian medical experience was a two week service experience in Cusco, Peru led by Professor Ted Johnson and pediatrician Doug Tate ’70. Twelve students worked with children who have cleft palates or urinary problems that can be surgically corrected. The students worked with Dr. Tate and assisted surgeons associated with Children Surgery International in Arequipa. Students helped exam the children and accompanied them through the surgical process. Students also worked in a orphanage, the Willoq Community and assisted volunteers in the slums of Lima . The summer experience served as the basis for a current interim program : Peruvian Medical Mission which is offered each interim at St Olaf for sixteen students.
Jenny Howenstine ’98, Associate Dean of Admissions and Renne Sauter ’95, former Coordinator of Wellness Programs, along with six St. Olaf students embarked on a service visit to Morocco. Jenny writes, "We went with the goal of hearing the stories of Moroccan women and returned having learned just as much about ourselves and our ideas about vocation. We spent the first half of our trip in the capital city of Rabat. Most of our volunteer work was done in the oncology ward of the Children’s Hospital and depending on the day, we played with the children, delivered snacks, gave the mothers hand massages, and painted a mural. We lived at the “House of Parents” where families stay while their children are at the hospital.
A week and a half into the trip, we moved on to Marrakech. We volunteered in an orphanage and visited with a women’s cooperative who raise rabbits to support their Berber Village. After listening to the stories of other women during the day, we shared our own thoughts during many group discussions, most unplanned, throughout the trip. My own ideas about vocation evolved into realizing that it is not only about a career. The women we met confirmed this. Many had impressive jobs, but their other initiatives were even more inspiring and at the core of their stories. We saw that the most positive changes can be made by one person taking notice of something that can be improved upon and then connecting others together to work toward a common goal."
Assistant Professor of Russian, Marc Robinson led a group of thirteen students to Staraya, Russia in August 2004 to continue his work in the Children's Home of Hope orphanage. Students were able to experience the shocking dichotomy of haves and have-nots in the emerging economy of a new country with an ancient culture. The experience forced all participants to challenge all preconceptions and expectations which they brought with them to Russia.