CWRU Gives Back Through Study Abroad
Spanish students creating handmade books at Ediciones Vigía in Mantanzas, Cuba
In 2014 we started the Center for International Affairs E-Newsletter to focus on internationalization at CWRU and highlight the remarkable depth and breadth of CWRU’s work all over the globe. Throughout the year we have shared important research and educational collaborations in every discipline on all 7 continents. As we look ahead to 2015 we want to close out the year by celebrating some extraordinary experiences of CWRU students who are engaging in the world and giving back through their education abroad experiences.
If you ask any one of the 34% of CWRU undergraduate students who studied abroad last year, they will likely tell you about the positive, even transformational, experiences they brought back home. Few realize, however, that CWRU students are also leaving behind a positive impact in several countries around the world, from India, Uganda and Cameroon to Cuba, Guatemala and the Philippines. Almost a dozen CWRU study abroad programs and student organizations are working to improve lives in the local communities they visit, even as they reap the personal and academic benefits of international education.
Bioethics students performing community service in Costa Rica
Several faculty-directed CWRU study abroad courses incorporate community service activities into their busy itineraries. In Costa Rica, a Bioethics class led by Nicole Deming and Kurt Rhoads has partnered for over five years with local organizations such as the University of Costa Rica and BodhiSurf on a variety of projects, ranging from cleaning up local beaches, planting trees and making elementary schools safer for Costa Rican children. To the north in Guatemala, the Mandel School’s Victor Groza and Zoe Breen Wood have asked their students to carry an extra suitcase full of supplies to benefit local children, entirely solicited by student donations and fundraising efforts. Moreover, the students work with Mayan children as part of a service learning project that aims to help them in public school. Across the Gulf of Mexico in Cuba, CWRU Spanish students led by Damaris Punales-Alpizar volunteer at Ediciones Vigía, a handmade bookmaker that uses repurposed materials, contributing to a unique facet of Cuban culture. Beyond Latin America, another Mandel School course in India is partnering with the Asian Indian Physicians Organization of Northern Ohio to carry over 170 pounds of medical supplies to aid underserved and needy communities in south India.
CWRU students work with children in Guatemala on a Mandel School study abroad course
CWRU engineering students have developed an exceptional connection to the continent of Africa, making a lasting impact in several countries, including Botswana, Uganda, Cameroon, and this coming winter, Lesotho. Professors Dan Lacks and Mohan Sankaran have brought aspiring engineers to Botswana every summer for the last four years. In addition to studying core concepts at the University of Botswana, CWRU students have applied their skills towards bringing sustainable energy to impoverished and isolated communities on the edge of Kalahari Desert. In Uganda, a group of students visited hospitals and clinics last spring break, implementing a bar-code scanner to improve record keeping. This January, another five students will travel to Lesotho to donate solar electrical systems that were designed and built by a SAGES seminar this fall. As if these life changing efforts were not enough, CWRU engineering students even bring tennis equipment to Botswana to donate to local children. Outside of regular coursework, the CWRU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, a nonprofit humanitarian organization run by student volunteers, has worked in the community of Batoula, Camroon since 2008, installing pumps, bio-sand filters and a solar-powered water well and distribution system.
In addition, the CWRU community sponsors numerous voluntary international service activities. Along with their work in Cameroon, Engineers Without Borders also has active projects in the Dominican Republic and the Philippines that aim to provide safe drinking water to local communities. Another nonprofit student-run organization, Global Medical Brigades, is planning its first trip to Honduras this May. They will deliver medications and supplies, and work with doctors to offer mobile clinics that will reach 800 patients a day in underserved villages. Other CWRU medical students have also volunteered for the last two years with Medical Missions of Mercy in the Philippines, where they provide anesthesia for up to 200 surgeries in limited functioning hospitals. Last January, three students participated, facilitating crucial medical interventions for people who could not otherwise afford the care. CWRU nursing students are also active internationally, educating older adults about air pollution in China and working in a rural clinic in Nicaragua, to cite just a couple examples.
CWRU medical students on a medical mission in the Philippines last January
CWRU’s involvement in Nicaragua extends even deeper. For the last five years the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning (CCEL) has directly coordinated a non-credit “alternative spring break” in Nicaragua for CWRU students interested in international service. Partnering with the nonprofit organization Waves of Hope, CCEL’s program has made a lasting impact in a rural coastal community, contributing towards housing and infrastructure projects, and even assisting in the construction of a new high school. In addition, CWRU students also facilitate an afterschool program for local children to play and learn English. Set to return for a sixth season this spring, this popular study abroad option epitomizes our community’s desire to give back while becoming ever more engaged global citizens.
Learn more about how you can give back through study abroad, visit www.case.edu/studyabroad or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your on-going interest in internationalization at Case Western Reserve University.
Happy holidays from the Center for International Affairs.