If you’ve ever read any of our articles during the summer season, you know we aren’t exactly on vacation. Our work just switches gears. For students at our Institute, the summer becomes an opportunity to put into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom.
In order to complete a degree in Community Development, students must travel to one of our four regions and participate in what we have labeled an ‘immersion.’ An immersion is a trip that immerses students into a different culture, where people speak a different language, eat different food, endure a different climate, have different preferences for leisure and music, a whole catalogue of difference.
An Immersion isn’t just exposure to a different culture. And these places where they serve aren’t places we just work during the summer season. We have laborers year round in El Salvador, India, the Philippines, Kenya and Uganda. Students get involved into ongoing programs and projects that are specific to the needs of the region in which they are working.
Below is a snapshot into what we have going on at our four international locations this summer:
On the campus of our Latin American regional hub in El Salvador, immersion participants will double the size of our garden plot and develop a new composting system for neighbors to contribute to. This project comes in response to the reality that 40% of children in rural El Salvador are malnourished. While farmland is abundant, farmers grow cash crops like beans and corn, and families don’t receive ample nutrients to maintain their health. The garden acts as both a source of nutrition and a model of how growing a variety of crops can improve the health of residents in the area.
Beyond the gardening project, students will host a three week children’s camp focused on building character and gaining skills. The camp will serve youth from eight surrounding communities. Other youth activities include facilitating the second season of a soccer league and organizing a volleyball league--both positive outlets for youth who are not afforded ample opportunities.
While these ongoing projects take place, students will also work alongside SLAM mission teams who come to the area to work with us in the area and tackle various projects like building an enclosed shower and restroom area for a nearby family.
India Immersion students Jameson Parker and Ryan McAllister have prepared plans for a patio (rooftop) garden at our urban-based office in Gurgaon. In the city, most Indians are afraid to eat raw produce because of the high levels of chemical pesticides and fertilizers on their food. Jameson and Ryan will be building raised garden beds, and planting select vegetables, teaching local Indian youth about the basics of growing food along the way.
Corey Foster, our third Immersion student who is an experienced elementary teacher, will be primarily involved at our partner school, Aquatic Public School. Being there just as the school’s summer break ends, she will offer a seminars to teachers on how to establish and maintain orderly classroom routines. Classroom management has been an ongoing issue which APS teachers have asked for help. Corey will also volunteer at the school in order to model and help teachers implement what they’ve learned.
Finally, Stephany Dailey will be joining our team in late July. A mother of two and a teacher at The Academy for G.O.D., she will bring valuable prenatal information and supplies to two expectant mothers in our neighborhood. She has worked with our maternal health experts to prepare a seminar on basic childbirth education and lactation.
Based on the recent success of our agriculture efforts in Uganda, Zach Hartnell will be helping to build a processing station for harvested produce to prepare it for consumption or market. They will work on developing a system for both processing the produce and storing it.
Rachel Hartnell will be working alongside teachers at St. John’s Primary School to develop an incentive system to reward student behavior in the classroom. In addition to this, the team will assist in incorporating more dynamic activities into the school curriculum that will allow children to use their energy as they learn.
Immersion participant Ben Young will be organizing a soccer league for 8-10 year olds from St. John’s over the course of his immersion experience.
Others will be working in the realm of health care, either taking care of and providing educational supports for handicapped children or conducting eye tests on all the students at St. John’s.
South East Asia
Keith Turner and Aimee Byrd, our immersion participants in the Philippines, will be working on a variety of projects related to our Tahanan Community Center.
Keith is further developing the garden on the grounds surrounding Tahanan. The produce from this garden provides food for guests of the community center, women at the local prison and produce for nearby Baras Elementary School. In addition to this, Keith has been working alongside our personnel at Tahanan to teach the Bible to young people who frequent the center who are eager to continue learning and practicing God’s Word.
Aimee is responsible for co-facilitating the 7 SLAM summer interns serving with us this summer with Leafa Vagatai. Putting her work experience into practice, she will organize the team’s efforts in logistics and finance, and help facilitate events for the interns as well as young adults who frequent Tahanan throughout the week - Bible studies, open mic nights, day trip outings, service projects, kid’s camps and more.
As you can see, these projects are related to meeting very basic needs among the most vulnerable in the developing world environment. Each is unique to its own situation and the specific needs at hand.
Immersion participants experience both successes and come to understand their limitations over the course of their time abroad. These experiences fuel their educational experience at the Institute and leave them eager to further gain the capacity to be empowering community development workers. Please pray for these laborers and tay tuned for updates on how these projects unfold throughout the summer!