It’s hard to believe that just over a year ago, we were welcoming back our intrepid travellers from the ASH Service Learning Program trips to Nepal, Thailand and Tanzania. These students and staff members had participated in the year-long service learning program which culminated in these trips with our partners overseas. Merely weeks later the world as we knew it changed drastically, as most countries were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (and continue to be today). At ASH we still wanted to provide the opportunity for our students to participate in global service learning - as it is such an invaluable experience. So, as ever, we embraced an agile and adaptive mindset and piloted a new Global Impact Program this year. We spoke with Mr. Dankaerts, our CAS & Service Learning Coordinator, about the challenges overcome and the amazing opportunities this new program has to offer.
Mr. Dankaerts explained how this new program came about and how it truly was a collaboration with ASH’s long standing service partners in places such as Nepal and Thailand. He emphasized how important it was that we didn’t lose the relationship and ties to these organizations and people ASH has worked with for many years, plus with service learning at our school’s core, it was also important we adapt to these current circumstances.
What is the Global Impact Program?
This year it operated on a virtual premise and five different options were offered to our students; IMPACT Nagarkot 21(Katike Village - Nepal), IMPACT Eden Festival 21 (Cape Town - South Africa), IMPACT Bardia 21 (Bardia National Park - Nepal), IMPACT ULC Tech 21 (Khao Lak - Thailand), IMPACT Global GPSA 21 (Global Public Service Academies - this includes the opportunity to work with students and faculty from Duke University).
Each of these five programs started with an actionable question, something for our ASH students to problem solve and to come up with real actions and change-making. The first part of this school year, the different groups spent their time investigating and researching on these questions, brainstorming ideas for what they could do and what impact they could have. After the winter break, there was a shift into planning for what action the students would like to see within their different programs, how they could bring this change about and designing this action.
The groups have just concluded reflecting upon their work over the last year, the impact they have had with the partnerships they have worked with, plus what impacts participating in the program has had on them as individuals. As one of the students identified in her reflection, it wasn’t just the chance to work with the partners overseas that was a great experience, but also the opportunity to work with different students within ASH who they may not have had the chance to work with before. “It was a great social experience, as well as a great learning experience.” Forming these kinds of bonds both within our own school community and with partners around the world is such meaningful learning.
Another student reflected on how the pandemic challenged the methods of solution finding: "This program gave me a new perspective on problems. I am a person that would confront and solve problems, not working around the problem. The biggest issue right now is the pandemic. If we can’t end the pandemic, we can do our best to work around it, and adjust our plans to fit the situation." A fellow classmate and project member echoed this viewpoint in the satisfaction for deeper understanding of what the source of the problem is, and what kind of help they can really offer: "Through this program, I really learned how to figure out (the solution for) a problem. It was really a step by step inquiry of a problem."
Traditionally, an on-campus celebration would be hosted at the culmination of participating in a service learning opportunity, but as with so many events at ASH this past year, we adopted a virtual approach. We asked both the participating students and the partners they worked with to contribute their reflections on how the impact program went and the learning experiences they have taken away from being involved this year.
If you would like to hear more from the individual programs. please click on the links below:
- Nagarkot Nepal program
- Bardia Nepal program
- Greenpop South Africa program
- GPSA Global program
- ULC Tech Thailand program
To conclude this reflection on this past year’s Global Impact Program, we are enthusiastic to share that this program will continue in the 2021-2022 school year. Next year, there will be two programs running, with the online partnerships continuing and the reinstatement of the travel partnerships as well pending international regulations for travel. ASH is grateful to work with our international partners to offer these service learning opportunities and to have an impact on both our students and the people in these overseas communities as well.