Students Volunteer in Belize Over Spring Break
Twenty-six NMU students participated in the first “volunteer abroad” opportunity in Belize over spring break. Miriam Moeller (International Programs), who led the trip with James Cantrill (CAPS), called it a “total success.”
Students painted the school in the poor town of El Progresso and drew the school’s emblem on the side of the building. They also built a picnic table, assembled a basketball hoop, taught an arts and environmental lesson and played games with the children. Students brought two boxes of donated items ranging from school supplies and encyclopedias to soccer balls and toothbrushes. The group had an opportunity to tour Mayan ruins and participate in other cultural excursions.
“They met two members of the local Mennonite community, who gave a presentation on their mission in Belize,” said Moeller. “And they met a team of ‘leaders in training’ from the British organization Trekforce. I gave the group a chance to learn about leadership by dividing them into groups and appointing five different leaders. During the trip they were in charge of a handful of students to ensure everyone was hydrated, safe and happy. At least one student thanked me for giving him a chance to be a leader and several students expressed to me how meaningful the experience was for them and how it has changed their lives already.”
Last spring, International Programs and the Center for Student Enrichment partnered to write a successful Wildcat Innovation Fund grant request to explore several sites for international volunteering trips. These opportunities are open to any student enrolled in Superior Edge and are some of the first non-credit service trips abroad offered by NMU. A second international volunteer trip is scheduled May 2-19 in India, led by Jon Barch and Rachel Harris (Center for Student Enrichment).
“A third site in Central or South America is being considered for winter break next January,” said Dave Bonsall (Center for Student Enrichment). “It is hoped that each of these sites will annually host international volunteering trips from NMU. These trips meet the goals of the International Programs Office for increasing the number of students with international experiences, apply to the diversity and citizenship edges of the Superior Edge program and relate to the Road Map to 2015 goals of innovation and community engagement.”