Global Service Programs Offer Life-Changing Experiences

By Skyler Huff

Global Service Programs through the Office of Service-Learning offer a life-changing experience to college students through the perfect mixture of service, cultural learning and fun.

“I learned not only about myself and how to be a better person, but also about life and how to live a better one of those as well,” says MU student Elissa Curtis.

Curtis traveled to Cape Coast, Ghana in July 2011. She worked at ABOOM, a special needs school for children. At the time of her trip, the idea of special needs schools was still new to the Ghanaian people. The stigma and societal ridicule that many of these individuals faced were difficult, Curtis says, but it was a worthwhile endeavor to help better their lives. It also helped to better hers.

A group of students participated in the AIDS Race, an event originally started by MU students and carried on by Ghanaian locals.
A group of students participated in the AIDS Race, an event originally started by MU students and carried on by Ghanaian locals. Pictured left to right: Kate Obermeier, DeShaunya Ware, Leighton McCabe, Allison Gillilan, Amy Zahakalyo, and Lacy Jacobs.

“They were incredible,” Curtis says. “I think looking back I have an even deeper appreciation for the children I worked with because I am now an occupational therapy student. I still think about those kids today and when other people come back with new stories about them it makes me so happy that they were also able to experience what I did.”

Sarah Shear, doctoral student at MU, served as a group leader during the Ghana Global Service trip in July 2013.

“The month I spent in Ghana was the most worthwhile learning experience that I have ever been a part of and I think the students would agree,” she says.

It left such a significant impact upon her that she will be returning as a group leader in this summer.

Student Allison Gillilan traveled to Ghana in July 2013, as well.

“I was able to explore, learn and fall in love with a new place,” she says. “The service was also low stress and everyone enjoyed his or her job. I would definitely encourage anyone to do this.”

Interested students have the opportunity to travel to Ghana, Ecuador, Ireland or Thailand.

Students earn six credit hours for a month-long service trip to Cape Coast, Ghana in either June or July.

Students are sectioned into smaller groups of two to four in order to work at individual project sites through local organizations. These project sites are based on the focus areas of education, public health, community and economic development, and environmental studies. An additional day of full group service work is also a component.

There are opportunities for students to learn about Ghanaian culture during the program. There are trips to Kakum Tropical Forest, historic area castles and the capital city of Accra, as well as feature activities including African dance and drumming, a batik workshop, seminars on Ghanaian history and an introduction to the native language of Fanti.

Sustainability, environmental conservation and ecotourism are the issues covered during a four-week program in Ecuador. Taking place from mid-May to mid-June, students learn about various ways to protect the environment and test those practices through service activities. The trip also includes a dose of culture as students visit Mitad del Mundo, a national Ecuadorian landmark, the capital city of Quito, the Galapagos Islands and the country’s rain forests.

Students in the Ireland program are placed very similarly to the Ghana program, with small service group projects and one-day full group projects. Six hours of credit will be earned. From May 31 to June 28, program participants will be focusing on special needs education at Ability West and social justice and human rights issues with the Irish Traveller’s Movement.

Ability West is an educational facility that aids in the development of individuals with special needs or disabilities. Students aid in teaching individuals with special needs necessary skills so that they may become more independent. The ultimate goal is to rehabilitate these individuals so they can live on their own. The Irish Traveller’s Movement is a program with a goal of reducing discrimination against the Traveller’s population, an ethnic group similar to the gypsies of southern Europe. Students address the needs of this population by helping with public relations, fundraising, public health, educational activities, job training and advocacy.

Students are introduced to the culture of the Irish through various excursions and activities. Tours of Galway and Dublin, a visit to the Aran Islands and Cnoc Suain Village, and an Irish music workshop are provided. A four-day weekend free of events allows students to travel to various other areas of their choice.

Students participating in the Thailand Global Service Program will earn six-credit hours from May 31 to June 27 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The program, very similar to the Ireland and Ghana trips in nature, asks students to immerse themselves in the Thai culture and issues faced by Thai citizens and resident minority groups. The trip provides experience in operational activities and structures of development through projects including: teaching English, non-governmental business development and administration, health education, and child and human trafficking issues. Students are able to actively contribute to real initiatives, in turn making a real difference in Thai society.

Chiang Mai is nestled in the foothills of northern Thailand. Hundreds of sacred temples are located in the town, which has a modern, international community that is consistently growing. The population is considered to be easy-going, creative and respectful. The university area features trendy nightclubs, discos and restaurants. Sushi, Burmese curry and Thai street food are immensely popular at such places. Students have the opportunity to independently explore. Things to do include: Chiang Mai city tour, cultural center performances, Hilltribe Trek and bamboo rafting, visits to Golden Triangle, Hall of Opium and Wat Rong Khun, Bangkok city tour, and sight-seeing at the floating markets.

The application deadline for these programs is March 10. To find out more about program offerings, please contact Associate Director Jason Kinnear in the Office of Service-Learning, 204 Lowry Hall, at 573-882-1747 or kinnearj@missouri.edu