Friday, October 9, 2015

Return to Guatemala... Tomorrow!

As I prepare my suitcase for my departure to Guatemala tomorrow, I'm feeling like it's been a long time since I've spent time in Latin America. Not so long, however; the last time I went was also to Guatemala, in January of this year. Still, tonight it feels like a long time ago and a long way away.

Once again, I will be facilitating a global service learning program for speech-language pathology students, who are teaming up with students from physical therapy and occupational therapy to offer various services (e.g., literacy enrichment) in rural communities outside Antigua. I know the students are excited and, the fact is, so am I. I can't wait to be in a Spanish speaking environment, in a town where people can walk everywhere and there is piazza culture, and where I can eat some real, homemade tortillas.

Guatemalan sweets at a street stand
As for the global service learning conundrum, it is still alive and well. I have even had some pretty interesting conversations about it with students, who are also wondering who really benefits the most from these types of experiences. Keeping in mind that these programs are designed as service learning experiences (not voluntourism), there are clear learning objectives for the students. But what about the objectives for the recipients of our "service"?

Thus, I am going to Guatemala tomorrow with a few questions in mind for the week. Hopefully, I will be able to make some follow-up posts exploring some answers. Here are the research questions for the week:

1. How can we foster sustainable relationships with community partners in the towns we will visit?

2. How can we find out, from the communities themselves, how we can participate with them? What do they really want from this collaboration?

3. What are the long-term impacts of global service learning on the participating students? How will this experience influence their academic and professional inquiries and applications at home? What is my role as a facilitator in supporting/enhancing the students' learning?

Stay tuned for approximations to these questions, and, certainly, even more questions, as the week progresses. ¡Hasta pronto!

In January: An SLP student reading with a shopkeeper's daughter

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