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Meredith College Serves Abroad

From May 17-25, 2015 a group of 22 students, parents, professors, faculty, alumnae, and community leaders all connected when Meredith College participated in a service trip to Belize. The trip was organized by the Office of the Chaplain.

As has been the design of all of the Meredith service trips in Stacy Pardue’s five years as chaplain, the question asked of all participants was, “What can we bring to this country that will be sustainable and continue on once we leave?” The answer came with multiple projects in mind: a library for an elementary school, as well as tutoring and teacher training in a literacy program called Motheread, community health lessons for faculty and at-risk teens, training for caregivers of children’s homes, videography with the purpose of providing promotional materials for Belize’s child welfare department, and training of local businessmen to teach basic business skills to small business owners or college students.

Dean of Students Ann Gleason served as the trip coordinator. “While Belize has abundant natural beauty, it faces challenges as a developing nation such as clean water, wide-spread communicable diseases due to lack of vaccinations/immunization, preventative medical care, and strong infrastructure for roads, many things which I think we daily take for granted but are not guaranteed,” said Gleason. “During our trip we were able to establish positive connections with students, teachers, agency directors, and members of the community by working with others - in providing support, education, assistance, and continuing resources.”

Gleason was pleased that Meredith’s service provided something that is sustainable. “Because the people who live in Belize often have the experience of groups traveling to their country to build or establish something that is not sustainable or ongoing, there can sometimes be mistrust or an abundance of caution in allowing groups to offer assistance - this is completely understandable,” Gleason said. “What we learned through our service experience in Belize was that building relationships that could be sustained in an authentic, meaningful way was more important than any object or item we could have given.”

Melissa Jenkins, ’17, said the Belize trip made an impact on her personally.

“Working directly with caregivers of the children’s homes was beneficial to me as a future social worker, mainly because I could tell that they were passionate about their work. Envisioning possible scenarios through the training we received is one thing, but listening to their specific needs and incorporating the training models in a realistic manner is another,” Jenkins said. “I can’t express enough how eye-opening this opportunity was and how grateful I am to share it with Meredith College students, faculty, alums, and friends.”

Dean Gleason also added that, “It was so refreshing to witness Meredith students and other participants step out of their comfort zones to cut through any perceived or real cultural barriers to provide education, literacy, public health information, crisis care training, etc. and to meet others where they were - and to work with and alongside those they were serving - and this turned the action of serving into working alongside and partnering.”

Chaplain Pardue is gratified to hear how students have integrated service into their lives after returning from Belize.

“I try to emphasize that we don’t have to go far away to do good in this world; there are always needs all around us. It seems that many participants are moved by their service trip experiences and are able to translate their learning and passion to their lives when they returned,” Pardue said.

Pardue also believes it is important for students to experience the world beyond the U.S.

"There is great impact from participants experiencing the developing world. There is poverty in America, but the depth of poverty, the lack of opportunity and sometimes the lack of hope in the developing world is very different than here in the U.S. For participants to experience this first hand creates a new understanding followed by compassion and generosity,” Pardue said.

—Article contributed by Belize Trip participant Amy Hester Wilson, ’98

Melyssa Allen

News Director
316 Johnson Hall
(919) 760-8087
Fax: (919) 760-8330

allenme@meredith.edu