31 March 2011

Students Getting Active

It is one thing to learn about human rights and social justice issues within the confines of a classroom or within a book or article, but it is fully another to be able to feel as if one can go beyond just learning, and take the immense gift of being a student into the realm of project execution, empowerment and involvement of creating change.

For the first 2 Units within CIEE’s Globalization and Development program, we traveled to various villages within the Northeast, Isaan region of Thailand where we researched, exchanged and physically observed many issues that the people are currently combating. There was a wide range of topics discussed, from contract farming, chemical fertilizer to land title rights. Although these trips were rewarding and immense learning experiences, Many of us were left feeling helpless and distressed, wondering how to move forward effectively with the gained knowledge of these presently occurring injustices and organizations working to contest them.

Finally, within the second month and 3rd Unit of our study abroad program, we were gifted the opportunity to put many of our ideas into action, as well as be able to actively participate in the possibility of creating real results. Three separate groups of students traveled to different locations with specific objectives in mind. One group traveled to a community fighting the construction of a copper mine, one to a village we had previously visited working on creating a local variety seed bank, and another went down to Bangkok to speak with key players involved in Thailand’s current political situation. During each trip the students interviewed and spoke with individuals directly involved in the movements, and were able to ask them about exactly what ways we can help them achieve their goals. Immediately upon each groups return, we worked rigorously to write a CCC report, or “Collaborative Community Consultation Report”. The CCC reports are documents regarding the topic of human rights and social organizing, each one thoroughly recording the issues that affect the community or group that was visited. The report also includes a chronicle of relevant histories, up-to-date statuses on the progress of the cause, and ideas regarding collaborative projects that students can assist in implementing in the near future. The purpose of this was to enforce a continued effort in establishing and maintaining reciprocal relationships with the villages, organizations, and people living within these regions.

In the next steps section of the report, students detailed the suggestions of the communities in what way to act now that they had gathered this information, as well as additional ideas that the groups had come to a consensus on to further their needs. Each community also was explained intricately to all other group members, insuring full understanding of each student in the issues and current situations so as everyone could possibly choose to execute the next steps. The groups all laid excellent ground work for the coming project time, a crucial and final element with our program where the time is set aside for executing these concepts into actuality through these specified project and compilations of educational materials.

I feel that as students, activists and global citizens it is our responsibility to cherish our privileges and resources that are at our fingertips. Unit 3 was our first step towards taking advantage of this, and gave us an idea of just how effectively we can assist in causes creating positive change. It is a great blessing to be able to be granted with such knowledge and work with such courageous and righteous groups and individuals, and I look forward to the coming months where we will be given a continued opportunity to step out of the academic sphere and into the role of taking action; this is one of the beautiful and satisfying aspects of CIEE’s DG program, and I believe should be more alternative learning programs that reflects this model.

Lyric Rafn-Stoffer
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

1 comment:

Lexa said...

Hi! The CCC reports are similar to what we're doing here in the DOminican Republic Service Learning. We started out the semester being placed in an organization, then throughout the semester we work with them and design a project and investigation to improve the organization and/or the communities they work in. I think its really great that you guys are doing similar things in a different way. Because of the way my organization works, I was able to go into different communities and look at the similarities of problems in all of them. But some people only worked in one or two communities the entire semester. I think it would have been interesting to have everyone work in or at least observe and talk with different communities and their members. It definitely would have offered different perspectives that we don't have.