Issue 347: 8 / 2 / 2010
Students in Southwest's Social Problems Class Help Tackle Social Issues in Macedonia
They went abroad not just to explore the countryside sightseeing, Shannon Little, interim chair of Social Behavioral Sciences, and her Social Problems class took their Service-Learning project to Macedonia as part of Southwest's International Studies Program. Dr. Tamara McColgan, director of the International Studies Program, had gone to Macedonia during the summer of 2009 with the Convoy of Hope (an international faith-based community outreach, disaster response and partner resourcing organization) that does a project there every summer with students. Little and McColgan thought that pairing with that group would be a great way to initiate their first Service-Learning trip.
Little says she finds that while students like the Social Problems class, because of its emphasis on what is not working in our society, some can get discouraged. She wanted her class to do more than just learn about societal problems; she wanted them to take an active role in providing a solution. “I’ve incorporated Service-Learning in ‘Social Problems,’ meaning that we will actively engage in working on social problems. We are not just going to study them, we are going to get out in the community and address them,” Little said.
Their first major learning outreach project was the refurbishing of a community center in Negotino, Macedonia. “We cleaned, cleared and painted the building, we cleaned up the grounds – we made it useable for the community. Southwest sponsored the project; it was the first time we sponsored something outside of the country,” Little stated. “We took a large image of a check that Dr. Essex signed and presented it to the mayor of Negotino,” she excitedly continued. “It was hard work but really a fun project."
The newly renovated community center will be used for an English as a Second Language class. Little indicated that English-speaking Macedonian citizens have a much better chance of finding work, as unemployment and poverty rates are very high. Little said the community center may also be used as an elderly care facility where someone comes once a week to provide healthcare for the elderly. The center may also be use for after school care and political meetings. It will provide multiple uses for the community.
Southwest students stayed at the local hotel during their 10 day Service-Learning project in May working with local workers on the refurbishing. They also took a day to work at a lunch kitchen to serve a group of Roma (gypsy) children. They were told that the Roma children generally don’t go to school past the fifth grade. The lunch kitchen serves the children a nutritious meal after school and encourages the children to stay in school. They played card games with the Roma children and took pictures of them. “They loved having their pictures taken. Everywhere we worked we took peoples' pictures and showed them their pictures on the digital cameras. We had people lined up to have their pictures taken and to see them,” said Little.
The most frustrating part of the trip for the students was the language barrier. They wanted to ask the people questions and interact, but most spoke Macedonian. Little said, "The bus drivers acted as translators, and they could always fall back on non-verbal communication; a smile is the same in both languages."
View the International Studies Program participants' travels to Macedonia Photo Gallery.
View YouTube Video of Day three in Macedonia.