Global Service Learning
EDI sponsors students to undertake summer service learning internships in South Africa, India (and in 2012, Israel). As part of this program students spend 6 weeks abroad contributing to the work of one or more disability-focused NGO, and at the same time learning about service, and civic responsibility.
Individuals with disabilities face challenges in all areas of life, through lack of awareness, stereotyping and discrimination, and a lack of accessible structures in the built environment. Raising awareness amongst students is critical to addressing the barriers which exist, and creating a society which is inclusive of all. Further, engaging our ILR students in the everyday work of NGOs in developing countries enables shared learning and understanding of issues and solutions, and provides numerous intangible benefits to staff and the community.
I have been intimately involved in the program, specifically in my role as faculty lead for the South Africa program. I visited South Africa in September 2011 to strengthen our partnerships with our two NGO partners, and to identify areas of contribution by our students. I also designed and implemented an in-depth evaluation of the program last year, the results of which were used to improve the program this year. This evaluation will be rolled out across the entire program this year. I have also designed and facilitated a pre-departure program to prepare the students for their international experience.
The students have gained insights into disability issues, both within their country of travel, but also through reflection of their experiences in the US. This will ultimately result in positive changes within the disability sector, as our students are the business leaders of tomorrow.
Within the countries we work, there have been considerable benefits to individual NGO staff, via the learning they have gained about the US context, as well as seeing their own context through the eyes of the students. There have been tangible impacts, for example one guest house in rural South Africa became accessible overnight in order to accommodate our students and their host, who was a wheelchair user.
- South Africa