K-State Students Particpate in Service Learning in Puebla, Mexico
by Jenny Barnes
Kids laughing, the smell of fresh paint and the faint sound of Spanish Barney music are a few things the International Service Team from Kansas State University would experience daily while serving at a daycare for low income families in Puebla, Mexico.
The team consisted of four young women: Tamara Andra, senior in secondary education, Allison Voris, graduate in electronic journalism, Leah Killebrew, graduate in print journalism and Spanish, and myself, senior in public relations.
Each summer K-State sends out service teams to various locations around the world. Other than the Puebla team, the 2008 summer included a team in Bucerias, Mexico, just outside of Puerto Vallarta, and two teams in Gaborone, Botswana in Africa. The teams are chosen after an application and interview process. The teams then participate in a preparation course through K-State School of Leadership Studies to learn about topics such as culture shock, service learning, language, demographics and geographic information about their sites.
The Puebla, Mexico team served for nine weeks. There were several projects coordinated through Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP) and the neighborhood association.
The first and largest was providing service to low income families at a daycare facility. What started out as just "babysitting," actually turned into something much more. The team decided to help fix up the daycare facility. They painted several large murals in order to make the bland concrete "playground" more enjoyable for the children. The team also organized the daycare to help the staff work more efficiently and to help the overall appearance inside the facility. The staff members were very appreciative and pleased with the final results.
The second project involved teaching English. Adults and children of the Puebla community were eager to learn English. The team set up weekly classes free of charge for two hours where community members of all ages could come and learn English. They also taught classes in the schools around the community twice a week. The students improved their skills and felt more comfortable with English by the end of the summer.
Another project was writing articles for the neighborhood newspaper. This project was very beneficial for the team because it allowed them to practice their written Spanish skills, and also gave them an opportunity to interview members of the community. Each member wrote two articles for the paper on topics such as the environment, history, cultural practices, etc. The community enjoyed reading an outsider's perspective.
I am grateful that I had this experience. The hospitality our team received was nothing less than excellent. I think service learning is a great learning opportunity that Kansas State provides. I learned so much about Mexican culture, the Spanish language and about the problems people face in daily life. I know that I always have a home in Puebla, Mexico.