Recent years have seen exponential growth in study abroad programs and global partnerships between academic institutions. They recognize that curricula with a global dimension help to extend the students’ views of the world, challenge their perceptions, and allow them to think critically about different cultural, socio-economic and political perspectives.
We work with public and private schools, colleges and universities to develop meaningful short-term service-learning programs and global partnerships with schools in Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania. Our key focus is on addressing un-met needs which could include the establishment of physical infrastructure such as libraries, health centers or playgrounds, the enrichment of the exploration of literacy, science, technology, engineering and math, or the development of micro-enterprise endeavors to enhance self-sufficiency.
Additionally, gender is a frequently recurring subject, regularly in conjunction with such themes as education, healthcare, entrepreneurship, law or governance. Read more by clicking on the next pages.
Recent years have seen an ever increasing internationalization of personal and professional environments. Professional focus study trips respond to the growing need for international experiences and offer professionals and students the opportunity to visit another country, and to meet with local and expatriate counterparts who work in the same or a related field. This allows the visitors to gain valuable new perspective on their profession, to share common challenges and to generally connect on a one-to-one level. Itineraries regularly involvegovernment authorities, academic leaders, embassies, development agencies, non-profit organizations and local businesses – willing to interact with the visitors through guest presentations, meetings, lectures and site visits. This is embedded in educational, cultural and historical introductions as well as nature, leisure and fun activities.
We regularly host education- or gender-related study trips – with or without service-learning components – from such academic institutions as the University of Central Arkansas, Aiglon College, Franklin College, the Latin School of Chicago or Montclair Kimberly Academy. Additionally, professional delegation study or advocacy trips have focused on subjects such as education of women & girls, English language & literature, gender-based violence, headstart, or interdisciplinary education, and were organized in collaboration with organizations like the International Federation of University Women, the People to People Ambassador Programs, RED, V-DAY or World Pulse.
Case study: World Pulse’s “The heartbeat of East Africa”
World Pulse is a global media and communication network devoted to bringing women a global voice. In February 2011, we teamed up with World Pulse to organize an advocacy trip to Kenya and Rwanda whereby a select group of guest delegates celebrated African women who are shaping the future. Their local programs are boldly tackling tough issues such as HIV/AIDS, poverty, water access and education. The purpose of the trip was to begin to truly understand the depth of these problems, to learn how to help provide profound solutions, and to form sustainable alliances.
School partnerships – the Rwandan example
In support of the Ministry of Education’s strategic priorities, we initiate and coordinate long-term partnerships between foreign and Rwandan academic institutions. For the short-term visits of school delegations, we assess the un-met needs of the local partner and support the integration of mutually beneficial activities into curricula. This way, participants enjoy a much stronger service-learning experience.
Our work focuses on ensuring that both partners develop a mutually beneficial experience. For the international institution, our services reduce the time that faculty members have to spend on coordinating an international partnership so that, instead, they can focus on student success, teaching and research. In East Africa, our services provide continued support and training for the local partner past the international institution’s visit. In particular, we offer professional development training on volunteer management and developing meaningful partnerships.
Partnership facilitation services (125h/year plus the coordination of the actual visits):
- Partnership creation and facilitation (60h/year): Identification of partners, assessment of un-met needs and opportunities for collaboration, development of an MOU to outline each partner’s roles and responsibilities, liaison between the partners, monthly check-ins to provide updates, special trainings to the Rwandan partner (including on hosting a service project and working with volunteers)
- Visit design (40h/year): Identification of learning objectives, program and itinerary design, advice on curricular/co-curricular service options (pre-trip orientation, trip reflection, post-trip awareness), advice on fund-raising and promotion
- Visit implementation: Professional coordination and management of all in-country logistics
- Partnership assessment (25h/year): Annual assessment to inform future planning, funding and project management
Case study: Books & Beyond Project (Indiana University & TEAM Charter Schools)
Since 2008, Indiana University and the New Jersey-based TEAM Charter Schools engage in Books & Beyond to increase critical literacy skills, address the Rwandan “book famine” and develop models for cross-cultural teaching and learning. They started a long-term partnership with Kabwende Primary School in Rwanda’s Northern Province where they provide high-quality reading material and foster critical thinking skills through the authoring, illustrating, publishing and marketing of an annual cross-cultural anthology of children’s stories. Over the course of four years, the project has delivered over 6,000 books to the Rwandan school and provided English literacy and computer training for the teachers.
While there are a lot of great opportunities for meaningful service-learning engagements, one particularly interesting partnership has evolved with an American non-profit organization. PlaygroundIDEAS encourages children to gain the skills they need to succeed in a changing world by providing a space and resources to play. For children in East Africa, play spaces encourage ingenuity, creativity, imagination, problem solving and social skills. In countries where teaching is very much based on memorization, students who learn best utilizing active styles fall behind. Play spaces serve as an education tool that appeals to all types of learners.
The entire school community takes part in designing, building and maintaining the colorful playgrounds. Teachers receive training on using the play spaces as a learning tool. Parents and community members receive training on play safety and developing healthy lifestyles. Once community members learn the necessary skills in building, they can continue to build playgrounds at other sites.
We work with international middle and high schools, sports clubs, colleges and universities to identify East African schools interested in building playgrounds. For the students visiting East Africa, the playground build can be the main focus of a service-learning visit or a segment of a larger program. Designing the play space, building and training can take from one to five days depending on the project structure, learning objectives for the visiting students and available materials.