Forty-seven students, faculty and staff members flew from Louisville to Cebu, a province of the Philippines, last month with the International Service Learning Program with the goal of helping the poor, rural communities in the mountains above Cebu city.
Students from criminal justice, engineering, law and communications divided into four groups that presented curriculum at four secondary schools. The topics varied from the dangers of online bullying and how water filtration works to building a solar oven to the International Declaration of Human Rights.
Another 14 third- and fourth-year dental students treated 172 patients during four days of service.
Many students, like Georgia Connally, a third-year law student graduating this spring, described the experience as life-altering.
In the ISLP’s Blog, she wrote about her experience at a Taoist Temple.
“I placed my incense in the vase and dropped the stones asking the spirits only ‘Will I find a fulfilling life?’ As they hit the floor, I could feel the silence erupt around me. The echo of the stones contacting the floor resonated in the walls of the temple. Before me, a red, tangled dragon holding a gong quivered with the noise on the alter. The monk approached me. ‘Maybe,’ he said and smiled.”
She writes about being emersed in Cebu throughout the next four days, and meeting a little girl, whose obvious poverty drew tears to her eyes.
“She welcomed me to Paril National High School and told me how much she loved her community, her school and me. In that moment I realized I didn’t know anything about happiness, or a fulfilling life. And I was not done learning.”
Connally detailed how she learned as much from the students as they learned from her,
maybe even more:
“From the outside looking in, it seemed like we, as Americans, had the better life. We have iPhones, indoor plumbing and electricity. But what we lack, they have in abundance: happiness and fulfillment. During a private interview with three students, I learned what these children understand, how they feel, about Cebu. We asked the students ‘If you could change one thing about Cebu, what would it be?’ They all responded ‘Nothing.’ I was stunned by their response. I wondered why they loved their home so much when they were so aware of the poverty and other issues. I asked them why. One student responded ‘It is my home, these people are my family. We help each other, and are always there for each other. I love it here. It has been good to me and my family. I may leave one day, but I will return, to continue to help my community.’ Again, I was speechless. I wondered how many Americans would say the same thing.”
Click here to read more or Connally’s experience in Cebu.