Working together in Guatemala were (back, left) Dr. Bill Jones, UIU assistant professor of biology; Dr. Gina Kuker, associate professor of education; Dr. Katrina Farren-Eller, assistant professor of English; Manon Saudray, UIU student from Rennes, France; (middle row, left) Emily Westcott, UIU student from Oelwein, Iowa; Allison Hahn, UIU student from Manchester, Iowa; Suze Theodat, RN from Boston, Mass.; Enora Lebreton, UIU student from Trelivan, France; PID intern Daniella; Kareemot Williams from Chicago, Ill.; Matt Campbell, UIU student from Hawkeye, Iowa; and Sergio from PID with his daughter; (front, left) Katie Brossard, UIU student from Janesville, Wis.; Moe Nagai, UIU student from Gunma, Japan; and Kazumasa Suzuki, UIU student from Tokyo, Japan.
FAYETTE, Iowa (July 31, 2013) - Lugging cement block and gravel, the students knew they needed to accomplish much on their last day in Guatemala. For about a week, the Upper Iowa University students had been working to construct a bathroom for a family of 10 just off the family's year-old house that had been built by Partners In Development (PID), an agency that works with the poorest of the poor in Haiti and Guatemala. Since 2010, Upper Iowa has had a working relationship with the nonprofit organization and has traveled to Haiti each year. This was the first year Upper Iowa students and faculty traveled to Haiti to assist in construction projects and giving out water filtration systems.
The trip was part of UIU's optional May term, which UIU offers for students to have the opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture through a variety of service learning projects. In addition to the trip to Guatemala, 13 UIU students also traveled to Haiti on a May term trip this year.
The Guatemalan trip was led by Dr. Katrina Farren-Eller, UIU assistant professor of English, and Dr. Gina Kuker, associate professor of education, and assisted by Dr. Bill Jones, assistant professor of biology.
"Being immersed in Guatemalan culture was in irreplaceable experience," said Allison Hahn, a junior education major of Manchester, Iowa. "I learned more conversing with the adults and children of Guatemala than ever possible from any textbook. I grew a great deal as a person and as an education student from this service project, and I encourage other Upper Iowa students to exceed their comfort zone and go on a service learning trip abroad."
Another focus of the trip was investigating the possibility of creating a partnership between PID-run schools in Guatemala and the student-teacher program at Upper Iowa University. "It would be my dream to be able to send Upper Iowa education students to spend a term teaching there," said Farren-Eller.
The English professor would also like to construct a secondary school near San Bernardino where the Upper Iowa group worked during May term. The capital of Guatemala City is 10 years behind the United States, but the poorer outlying areas have difficulty accessing high school education, and even the child sponsorship program through Partners In Development cannot cover the costs of secondary education. "The child sponsorship program is important to these families," said Kuker. "However, secondary education is so expensive that if you want to continue to sponsor a child into high school, the amount increases. There is such a need to sponsor children through high school."
Some Upper Iowa students will work on the project this fall to determine if building a secondary school is feasible, and what kind of resources it would require.
While touring the area, the UIU students were able to visit an elementary school, sponsored by PID, in session. First- through sixth-grade students crammed into the open-air structure with a tin roof. Two teachers headed up the classroom. "The fact that these families want their children to go to school is huge," added Kuker. "They see the value in education. PID has only been there since 2006, and they have made progress in leaps and bounds by getting these families to believe in the necessity of education."
Jones spent time working on each of the three projects. He noticed growth among the students throughout the week. "The effort to raise awareness affected each student differently," said Jones. "Some that had little experience outside of northeast Iowa simply became aware of how most of the world's people live. Each of us puts up barriers to protect our concepts of how life is, but each of our own barriers were challenged and breached to a greater or lesser degree. UIU students, who had more experience with other cultures, had the advantage of being more familiar with the reality of other ways of living but were challenged by the extent of poverty in Guatemala. I think PID was successful in providing the situation in which each student could grow in their own way. This ranged from simply becoming aware of how varied life situations can be to actively taking steps to provide individual support for particular children with whom they made a connection during the week."
UIU student Kazumasa Suzuki from Tokyo, Japan, plays with a local boy at the village near San Bernardino, Guatemala.
Working hard in Guatemala were (from left) Moe Nagai, Dr. Bill Jones and Katie Brassard.
Working on building the bathroom were (from left) Allison Hahn, Katie Brassard, Dr. Gina Kuker and Matt Campbell.
UIU student Manon Saudray (far right) from Rennes, France, works with Kareemot Williams to build a water filtration system.
About Upper Iowa University Founded in 1857, Upper Iowa University is a private, not-for-profit university providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs and leadership development opportunities to some 6,200 students—nationally and internationally—at its Fayette campus and learning centers worldwide. Upper Iowa University is a recognized innovator in offering accredited, quality programs through flexible, multiple delivery systems, including online and self-paced degree program. For more information, visit www.uiu.edu.
Monica Bayer Heaton
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