ISSLP Spotlight

Solidarity during a pandemic: Why it matters

“With abundant clarity, we now know that we cannot possibly live apart from the world because it intrudes into our private lives with such startling abruptness..…It is this more personal and pervasive awareness of the world’s intrusion into our private lives, that lends urgency and relevance to international service learning.” [1]

These words echo true to the events that took place in March 2020, as the coronavirus was developing into what would become a global pandemic. As Notre Dame students were on spring break, the University made the difficult but necessary decision to suspend all summer 2020 outbound international education programs. This decision included the 2020 International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP) of the Center for Social Concerns. ISSLP 2020 would have seen its largest participant cohort thus far with 73 students and expanded partnerships in new country locations including Eswatini, Kenya, and The Gambia.

Despite the disruptions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, ISSLP students successfully completed the required Global Issues spring course remotely. In addition to this, 30 students from the ISSLP 2020 cohort, engaged in remote global service-learning this summer with ISSLP site partners in Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Senegal. 

The following is a reflection from one of the 30 students who participated in remote global service learning during summer 2020.

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During the summer of 2020, junior Cristian Araujo worked virtually with the Ecuador-based Fundación Natividad de los Andes as part of the International Summer Service Learning Program.

Together with four other ISSLP students, Cristian taught English classes remotely to 168 teachers from Catholic Schools in the towns of Chimbo, Guaranda, and Loja in Ecuador.

“Teaching the Virtual English Course with the ISSLP allowed me to build meaningful relationships across physical boundaries. I had never taught English and was unsure of what I was embarking on."

Along with the experience of teaching a language, Cristian found the relationships she built through daily conversations with the teachers one of the most meaningful aspects of the work.

"Their excitement and readiness to learn mixed with their worries and uncertainties allowed for me to see myself in them. I too learned a new language and could relate to all their emotions. It was humbling for me to see how much effort they put into being on time and leaving aside their responsibilities simply to learn."

Despite the challenges of the global pandemic that pushed her ISSLP online, Cristian found motivation in the solidarity and principle of service for the command good at the center of her ISSLP experience.

"With so many things happening it had been easy for me to cocoon into my self-centered world of worries and responsibilities, but the course propelled me to stay rooted in positivity and look for new ways on how I can continue to work for and with others.”

 

 

1. Plater, William M. The Context for International Service Learning. An Invisible Revolutionary is Underway. Stylus Publishing LLC. 2011

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