Students who participated in the study abroad to Belize and Guatemala in July 2017 had the opportunity to engage in two service learning projects while in country. The first site was to the Welcome Resource Center in Belize City. This is a homeless facility that provides access to mental health services, laundry facilities, meals, and respite from the weather conditions during the day. They are not a shelter but have the goal to eventually house and rehabilitate patrons. In the morning, we had the opportunity to sit and talk with the individuals and learn from their life stories. Significant changes were noticed on on all sides, SPC students and faculty as well as the clients of the center. One of the most significant changes was a young girl who attended the center during the day for supervised care. She was not someone who usually interacted with other clients and would eat alone. During our visit, she bonded with one of the students and insisted on staying next to her rest of the day, even eating lunch with her. Others worked on repairing and restoring a wheelchair that was falling apart for an older gentleman. At lunchtime, we helped to serve meals to everyone and assisted with clean up. Fish was on the menu for the day, Mackerel, as well as rice, beans, coleslaw, and the equivalent of Kool-Aid. Students were surprised to find that the fish head was the most fought over piece of meat that day. In the afternoon, the SPC students and faculty played Bingo with the group, handing out hygiene products and snacks that we had purchased to donate to the facility.
Our second service learning project was at Octavia Waight, a residential elder care facility. Again, SPC students and faculty had the opportunity to interact with the residents and hear their life stories, benefiting from the wisdom and insight shared by their new friends. This is a mutually beneficial activity. The sharing of one’s life story is an important developmental activity for older individuals. During our visit, we were also able to restore a greenhouse on the grounds which will be utilized by some of the residents who like to garden and help in cooking meals and making hot sauce.
Both of the facilities have very little resources and funding, but they are doing amazing work with what they have available, along with passionate staff that truly care about their clients and mission. Visits like these change the lives of all of the individuals involved.
This year we will be traveling to Honduras. If you are interested in how you might get involved in an experience like this, please see the following website: https://blog.spcollege.edu/international/category/honduras/.