By Zach Mulert, Global Service Program Director
This year has been full of excitement trying to develop the best possible program. We have been working hard trying to find the right balance of helping the partner communities that we are serving, and making sure our students understand the value of their service.
It has been a delicate blend this year making sure these eight global service trips got off the ground, while also trying to craft an experience that remains true to our Program's goals. If anything, we now recognize that students truly value the relationships they've formed in the communities where they have served, and they also are anxious to re-engage. I've had dozens of 11th Graders ask me if they can return next year to work with the same communities and NGOs.
For as much as I can get consumed by the day-to-day details, the fact that students keep coming back telling stories helps me keep my eyes on the prize. Just recently, students who have been working with SOS Ticino (a local refugee committee that we partnered with this year) came back telling me how grateful they were to spend their afternoons with local refugee children. Meanwhile, SOS Ticino reported to me that one young refugee was disappointed when we were unable to come one particular week. Even if the partnership is still a work in progress, these moments help you realize that it is all worth it. This program will still take more time to build, but I am just so anxious for us to get there overnight.
While all of our trips have resulted in impactful experiences for our students, our recent Spring Break trip to Nepal was a roaring success that ended with students writing, “The things I experienced have changed the way I look at my life”, and “This experience changed me and the way I look at the world”—we can’t ask for much more than students re-thinking their attitudes towards themselves and others.
Similarly, I think that our spring Academic Travel trip to WISER was particularly impactful, and made even more impressions when Principal Dorcas Oyugi and student Lavender Musethi came to the TASIS campus just six weeks after our own visit. Their speeches to our entire HS student body made a lasting impression.
We also began a robust curriculum for our 9th Graders to help ready them for the challenges of the Global Service Program. It’s designed to introduce our students to global issues and to help our students develop a sense of empathy for others beyond themselves. Through weekly discussions, occasional readings, movies, guest speakers, and some kinesthetic activities (designed to mimic those with handicaps, the Walk for Water, etc.), we tried to get our students to begin thinking about solutions to global problems. At the end of the year, students worked in groups to develop a news report explaining a particular global issue and potential solutions. I also got to take seven of our star 9th Graders to the Global Issues Network conference in Luxembourg, where they presented about experiencing poverty when we have so much.
Looking ahead to next year, I’m excited that our Kiva group (which unfortunately did not get to work with a micro-finance institution in Albania this year) will likely visit Morocco next year, to work with multiple partners who work particularly with empowering women through economic development. Finding ways to serve Lugano, as well as the communities that aren’t that far away from Switzerland remains a part of our mantra.
We’ve also recently sent scouting missions to India to an organization called Gram Vikas, and to western Mongolia, to potentially provide English support to the university in Bayan Ulgi. These potential partnerships would expose our students to new regions, new issues (Gram Vikas focuses on health and sanitation primarily), and hopefully add value to the communities while simultaneously transforming our students.