A Whole Lot of ‘Me’ Talk

I have always had a deep interest in the study of genocide and the people affected by this crime. I chose my minor of Humanitarian affairs with the hope that I could expand my knowledge of genocide and my understanding of what it means and what it would entail to help those who have suffered through it. Through the classes I have already taken prior to this class I have been grateful to have learned much about the world and how its issue affect its people. However, this class and the opportunities it brings is my first chance to really delve into genocide as the focus of the class; and for that I hope to bring my enthusiasm and dedication to the subject matter.

I always struggle with questions such as “What do I hope to gain as a result of this course and trip?” I believe it is because I find it challenging to narrow down such a broad field of possibilities to one statement of intention. I know that I want to gain an understandng of genocide in the world, I want to return from the trip with some sense of reassurance that I made a difference, I want to better understand the Lost Boys and their lives. Me, me, me, me, me, that’s what I am hearing.   All of those hopes seem to come back to some sort of gain for me. This doesn’t sit right with me. I know I am privileged. I have a loving close-knit family and great friends. I have the opportunity to go to college. I have access to all the basic necessities of life and I have never been in a life threatening situation. To know all this about myself and to keep answering questions like the aforementioned with even more things for me truly concerns me.

Does this reflect a general tone towards service learning? Reflecting on all of these ideas makes me come to the conclusion that I hope to give all I can through this trip and course. I want to give my time, my energy, my ears, and my mind to the Lost Boys and other refugees I will meet. I hope that at the end of our trip I can say with confidence that I used all the time that was given to me to do everything I can do to help them. I hope that both my physical and mental energy is drained from exerting it all for them. I hope that my ears were open so that I can hear their stories and become a friend and confident that will repsect and emphazise with them. And I hope that my mind will have been open to all they have to tell me and that I can indeed learn something from their lives rather than just understand. Learn new things that inspire me and motivate me to become an advoacate once I have left this class. It is also my hope that I begin the trip with a mindset that is focused on the refugees. Any extra benefits to myself from the trip will be secondary.

The question of “What is good service learning?” is a question that I feel we will constantly be revisiting and adusting our understanding of. Prior to this weekend I had a general view of the concept that strayed more towards lumping it in with simply volunteering. However, after the spring retreat this weekend, both at the retreat and afterwards, I did a lot of thinking about how my understanding of service learning had changed. I now see the learning aspect much clearer then ever before. I now understand good service learning as multifacted because when on a trip you need to have a solid understanding of the issue and also the current place the people you are visiting are in. This would be visible in contacting an individual in charge and asking about what work can be done that will benefit the community no matter the realtive “size” of the endeavor. As volunteers we cannot go in thinking we understand exactly what the community needs. We must learn from them and adjust our bejaviors and intentions accordingly. Good service learning is also about being respectful of their culture and their wishes. If we were to simply go in with a rigid plan, we may end up making no meaningful change, or worse making a negative change. This can be avoided by being open to learn from the individuals we are serving.

This pre-reflection is just the first step in starting the process of learning that can eventually lead to action. I feel that the questions addressed here are vital to think about and return to many times throughout the semester. Because even writing this conclusion here I am still conflicted about my answers to both questions. I wonder if that is always how I will feel, or will my views change with every week of this course. I could continue writing about these ideas for many pages however, I believe I have reached the point where anything further would be redundant or counterproductive. These ideas are so hard to wrap my head around on one given day which is how I know that they will be the ones that I return to frequently throughout the semester.

-Becky

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