Tusculum College students visited Tusculum View Elementary School this week to share experiences of their recent service learning trip to the country of Belize. This is their second visit to the school, the group met with the elementary students prior to the trip to collect items to take with them.
Tusculum View students collected school and art supplies to be delivered by the Tusculum College students as well and prepared art work to describe their life in the United States to be exchanged with the Belizean students.
“With your help, we were able to take two suitcases full of school supplies and materials to the students in Belize,” said Kathryn Seiferth, a Tusculum College student who led the discussion at the elementary school.
The college students delivered art work from the Belize students to Tusculum View and also shared with them many of the cultural differences they found in this Central American country from what they might find living in the United States and talked about the service projects they worked on while on their trip.
Working with ProBelize, part of the international ProWorld service organization, the Tusculum College students volunteered at St. Joseph Roman Catholic School, where they taught students about malaria and its prevention as well as delivered the artwork from the Tusculum View students. Malaria prevention was also the focus of another service effort of the students while they were in Belize, a trash collection day.
On one of the first days of the trip, the students went out into the village of Cotton Tree and distributed trash bags, announcing the trash collection would be two days later. The trash collection was important because the villagers do not have a way to dispose of items such as plastics that cannot be burned. The villagers had been dumping trash into a creek, blocking it which provided a breeding ground for mosquitoes that in turn has resulted in an increase in malaria.
The Tusculum College students also participated in a health check clinic in a marketplace and educated citizens about diabetes and how to prevent and treat it, talked to local citizens about prevention of malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses as well as participated in a trash collection day.
During their trip to Tusculum View, the college students shared items they had brought back from Belize, many of which were purchased in the Belize Free Market. Items included musical instruments, baskets and jewelry.
The college students shared photographs of the schools they visited and talked about the differences in those and Tusculum View, pointing out the open walls and roofs, the small spaces and lack of supplies. They also encouraged the elementary school students to do service work on their own and with their schools and churches as a way to give back.
The students learned many lessons during their trip. “We learned patience very quickly,” said Megan Hart. “In Belize, they have their own concept of time.” The students also learned to be resourceful. “We learned to work with what we had,” she said.
One of the barriers the students had to learn to overcome was communication. While English is the official language of Belize, some of the people groups speak other languages. In the Cotton Tree village, they found that many of the elderly could only speak Spanish.
“We also learned to look at the bigger picture,” Hart said. “We worked to make a difference while we were there, and we know that efforts will continue through other students or groups that ProBelize will bring to the community.”
“I would tell other students that if they have the opportunity to take t
his class, to do it. It will impact you in a way you have not been impacted before,” she said.
The college students’ connection with Belize continues as they are working to raise money for a copier needed at the St. Joseph Roman Catholic School.