After 9 months of careful planning, the student and faculty group from McKendree University are finally on their way to Belize. The 2019 itinerary consist of a week of service learning, cultural immersion and Chocolate festival fun.
Belize has such a rich history and is a land filled with natural and cultural diversity. From the ancient Maya civilizations that ruled the land, to the colorful Garifuna, who originally came to the Caribbean as slaves from Western Africa, this travel to do good experience is the perfect combination of education, cultural immersion and community service.
Courtesy of Belize Tourism and Porta Gorda Chocolate Festival
For any student groups who may be interested in service learning travel programs, Chaplain Tim shared the following when defining his approach. “Service learning is a course-based, credit bearing, educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflect on… [it] to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.” ( *From Meredith A. Whitley and David S. Walsh, A. Framework for the Design and Implementation of Service-learning Courses. The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, April 2014, V 85. pp. 34 from Robert Bringle and Julie Hatcher, A Service Learning Curriculum for Faculty. The Michigan Journal of Community Service –Learning, Fall 1995, pp.112-122)
He describes the trip as an “immersion trip” versus a “mission trip”. ” The foundation of every McKendree immersion trip is student engagement with the city, the people, and the culture of the host location. This engagement takes many forms: working with locals on projects, lectures from area experts, language acquisition, worship experience, cultural and art experiences, and more. This immersion is what connects students to the issues; it leads to the development of understanding, empathy, and passion for the cause being served.”
” These trips are typically international immersion experiences. They focus on social justice issues, culture, mission or service. These trips are week long immersion experiences but may last more than one week. They include: pre meetings to bond and prepare team for site (Education of social, political, theological, historic issue of the area); actual on site experience of the country through education, personal relationship building and daily reflection, and a post trip meeting on re-entry and future action and reflection that has resulted from the immersion experience. We always present these findings and experiences to the campus and area churches on our return.”
San Miguel School
During their stay, the group will live, volunteer, play and engage very closely with the local communities. Many of the students will stay in local homes which will provide them with even more insight into local life, even it if for just a few days. The home stays have been fully vetted by our local in country partners and are a form of community tourism that also provide additional income to the host families.
Garden Project Location
Service projects include painting a local school, a garden project and the Global Mandala in Action Art Project. Additionally, the group will visit local tourism sites, attend a local church service, swim, snorkle and attend the Punta Gorda Chocolate Festival.
While this may be Chaplain Tim’s first visit to Belize, it is certainly not his first service learning trip. For over 20 years, he has led student groups from McKendree University to destinations around the world.
” I have taken students on over 20 mission trips to various places around the United States and the world including: Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Jamaica, Appalachia, Israel, Native American Reservation, Hurricane relief in New Orleans, Alabama, Mississippi, Washington (IL). I have really enjoyed building important friendships with people in every place we have traveled. It continues to remind me of all the wonderful and gifted people there are around the world and the many things we have in common. I can learn so much from them.”