8/12/15

5 Reasons to Volunteer this Summer


It gets you out of the house.

At school, you’re an independent adult out on your own—no parents looking over your shoulder, no siblings getting into your stuff. Transitioning back to the “child” role is stressful for everyone. So give yourself—and your family—a break and get out of the house for a few hours a week. Mom and Dad will be happy to hear you’re volunteering, and you’ll be happy to have some time to yourself!

It doesn’t have to be a soup kitchen. 

Soup kitchens and community meal programs are worthy recipients of your volunteer hours, but don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, too. Help a local Mom & Pop Shop improve their web presence; lead a craft or outdoor activity at a kids’ day camp; volunteer for a political campaign. The opportunities are endless, so get creative!

Beef up your resume.

So maybe you didn’t get the dream internship you were hoping for. You can still get valuable career experience through volunteering. Most small businesses or non-profit organizations will gladly accept free help, especially if it’s clear that you are passionate about what you’re doing and eager to contribute. And what better way to show future potential employers that you are proactive and a creative thinker?

Meet some new people.

Your friends from Bing aren’t around, and maybe your high school friends are busy with jobs and internships or you just haven’t kept in touch since graduation. Volunteering exposes you to new social circles, and often leads to strong friendships with likeminded people.

It’s good for you.

If the Yak game in your town is lame, your friends aren’t replying to your snaps, and you’re out of swipes on Tinder, then maybe it’s time to take a look around your community and find some ways to get involved. It’s been proven time and again that when people invest their own time, effort and resources into their community, the community blossoms, and so do all of those who live there.

7/15/15

Reflections on Peru--Accomplishments and Growth

Students in the Summer 2015 Local Development in the Andes service-learning class have returned from Cusco, Peru, after three weeks of service, learning and exploration. Here are some of their reflections on how they perceive their personal and academic growth, as well as the difficulty of returning to an American way of life:
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"I felt that I was able to think critically about all of the NGOs that we worked with, the work we were doing, and our overall presence in Cuzco. I don't think that I would have had a very critical lens without my prior academic experience and it felt great to be able to engage outside of a classroom setting." - Karly Armstrong
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"After completing this adventure I am excited and inspired to conquer more of my fears. Traveling to Peru as a whole is a great accomplishment for me because I have never been out of the country alone. This experience has made me confident enough to travel alone on my next service experience." - Charlecia Chung
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"I wanted to make an impact when I went to Peru, not just be another tourist who came to visit from the United States, and I think I did just that. Because I was able to pick up some Quechua, engaged in conversations and was friendly, I formed a bond that Christina might remember for a long time, hopefully a lifetime." - Carolina Garcia

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"The biggest challenge for me in Peru was trying to step outside of myself and understand how I was being perceived by others and whether I liked that perception. For the first time in a long time I had a chance to make the kind of impression I wanted on a group of people. I couldn't rely on their understanding of my past or personality, and so I had to instead focus on building relationships with people from the ground up." - Sarah Glose
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"Originally, I was highly skeptical that such a short amount of time at three different locations could not making a lasting difference. I have now come to realize that while we might have physically changed few things such as painting shelves or walls, playing with the kids, or constructing tables, we have made a lasting impression emotionally on the people we interacted with. Our willingness as Americans, students, and young adults to visit people in very different situations from ourselves is a demonstration that stereotypes are not always true and that people do care and want to learn." - Bridget Kunz
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"During my time in Peru, I was able to learn so much, from myself and also from the group.  Not only did the experience push me to explore more of Cuzco and what the city has to offer, but also it demonstrated to me that despite the language barrier I was faced with, simple words such as “Hello, How are you?” could open up a new day for me." - Helen Li
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"In Peru I felt very connected to the culture and the people because I had similar features and spoke the language so I felt a sense of community with everyone around me. It felt very jarring to be back in Upstate NY were almost no one looked like me and I was once again a minority." - Diana Reyes 
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"I am proud to have learned about public administration through graduate students pursuing a Masters in Public Administration; opening a world of understanding the role nonprofits have on communities and how local government works with these organizations." - Ally Sanchez
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"I was also proud of my ability to remain culturally competent in a mature and tactful way when adapting to Peruvian culture.  Some villages had garbage uncollected and on the side of the roads.  This was typical for the area, but my reaction was internal and I was comfortable when assimilating to their daily practices." - Elizabeth Pisani-Woodruff
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"Personally, I accomplished hiking Waynapicchu and conquering my fear of heights on the way down. That was the scariest moment of my entire life to this day; my body went into shock after I was back on flat ground and I couldn't stop shaking. The entire experience, as a whole, taught me not only about a new country, culture, and way of life, but it taught me a lot about myself." - Elizabeth Saturnino
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"In the last six months or so there has been an enormous amount of media coverage on issues involving race and white privilege. Growing up in a more conservative and rural community I never truly saw what the issue was. Unfortunately it took me traveling to another country to open my eyes to the issues of race, but it’s better late than never. Experiencing the privilege I have in Peru because of my skin color gave me a new outlook on the race issues that are in the States." - Meredith Summers
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"I am very proud of my ability to speak and understand the Spanish language enough to navigate through a foreign country. I am proud of the work I have done in the eight years that I have studied Spanish in the United States, and using those studies to communicate with people I otherwise would not have been able to communicate with." - Dina Truncali
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"I feel as though I have learned much about local development in regards to factors such as funding for local programs, government relationships with NGOs, and cultural and economic impediments to local development. I can probably apply this knowledge to many other cases of local development with other organizations in other parts of the world." - Anton Vlahek
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"By living with my classmates in the host family, I build friendship with my classmates as well. I think it is necessary to learn how to get along with people from different background—either Peruvians or Americans, and this study abroad program provides me this unique opportunity." - Jianhang Xiao
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"Perhaps what I am proudest of when it comes to my own personal growth on the trip was learning how to be open to anything, something that I understand isn’t an easy task, especially when one grows up with a set of values or common practices they are so accustomed to that they never stop to think that others might not do things the same way." - David Zatyko

6/29/15

Tackling Local Development in Peru

Students on the Peru service learning trip worked with three different service partner organizations in Cuzco: AbrePuertas, Corazon de Dahlia, and the comedor.

AbrePuertas was started by a SUNY alumna and is situated in the district of Coya, Peru, in the Sacred Valley outside of the city of Cusco. The organization works to improve community literacy, empower teens through leadership and public speaking trainings, engage families who may undervalue traditional education, and bolster the value of learning and art.

Corazón de Dahlia was started by a Binghamton University alumna. The organization provides afterschool programming for children, a bi-lingual and media library, and an educational toy and game library.

El Comedor Popular is an organization made up of local women and provides a source of food for families who would otherwise lack an adequate food supply in the form of a soup kitchen.

Students were asked to compare the similarities and differences between how each service partner tackles local development.
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"All of these programs fill in the gap between communities and local governments by providing services to their communities that otherwise would not be available." - Karly Armstrong
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"Abre Puertas uses their goal of improving literacy and education while empowering the children within the community as a way of fighting the issue of poverty. While Corazon De Dahlia provides services for children like Abre Puertas I think they also focus on family development through education." - Charlecia Chung
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"From what I observed at AbrePuertas, Ellyn looked at local development from the bottom up. That is, she saw children as a great way to introduce positive change into the community. At Corazon de Dahlia, local development also started with children. However, the work at Corazon de Dahlia was more specifically focused on providing educational and emotional support to children." - Sarah Glose
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"At Corozon de Dahlia, the mission, as stated by Laura, the head of the organization, was to foster the growth of the children of the community primarily with affection and love. By emphasizing kindness and solidarity this organization aids in changing the general mindset of the local family." - Alison Gryzlo
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"Of the three service partners the Comedor is the most different in terms of purpose. It is specifically to feed local women and children in Tika Tika a large lunch, which they otherwise would not be able to afford. On average they serve 50 meals a day. The Comedor approaches local development from the stance of fighting hunger and malnutrition. " - Bridget Kunz
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"AbrePuertas and Corazon de Dahlia have different communities.  Some families are more willing to follow through with education as a step to higher success, while others believe more on work and providing money for the family." - Helen Li
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"At [AbrePuertas] it seemed like they were very integrated into the community and had interaction with parents and kids daily. They seemed to have a bond with many of the families of Coya as most the children came back each day and parents felt it was a safe place for their kids." - Diana Reyes
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"Corazon de Dahlia also has volunteers that specialize as psychologists to offer the children with additional support, an aspect unavailable at Abrepuertas." - Ally Sanchez
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"El commodore provided meals to those in the community whom needed food or meals. This brought the community together and made them close knit and caring. This program was very small but powerful in the basic sense of family and support." - Elizabeth Pisani-Woodruff
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"Virgen de Fatima is similar to a soup kitchen, they offer very cheap meals to up to fifty people a day. By providing people cheap meals and giving them nutrition it helps local development but trying to keep people healthy and taking some stress off their shoulders. By offering meals, they don't have to worry about starving and can focus their energy on working or doing other constructive things for the community." - Elizabeth Saturnino
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"While both Abre Puertas and Corazón de Dahlia focus on providing additional education services to children from poorer communities in the hope that education will help these children break the cycle of poverty, they differ greatly in their resources, funding, relationship with the municipal government, and relationship with the local community." - Mohini Sharma
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"Corózon de Dahlia is strongly supportive of providing a loving environment to enhance learning capacity.  They also have a separate program that focuses solely on girls to empower them for their future.  Programs are also held that aim to educate parents." - Meredith Summers
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"When members of a community are well fed and do not have to worry about where they will find their next meal, they can better focus their energy on bettering their society and helping others." - Dina Truncali
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"Abrepuertas and Corazon de Dahlia focus on shaping productive and educated citizens. These service sites try to create a bright future for children by ensuring that what they need for such a future is fulfilled." - Anton Vlahek
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"Corazon de Dahlia is a bigger NGO with more resources than the site of AbrePuertas. It provides workshops for parents. It has an empowerment program for women. There are also psychologists for children who have emotional problems." - Jianhang Xiao
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"The comedor may have issues in the future, as they continue to help the poor and malnourished in the community, but what their community needs even more is programs to help improve the lives of the poor so that in the future they would not need to go to a soup kitchen for food. These sorts of programs would contribute much more to local development – but, what they are doing now is vital in this moment, so they must continue to be supported monetarily and with other service contributions." - David Zatyko