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Friday, February 5, 2016

Fostering Global-Mindedness in a (Seemingly) Linear World

A few years ago I volunteered to mentor a student club, America 4 Africa, or A4A for short. I wish that I could say that this was because I was passionate about raising money for mosquito bed nets. I confess that I signed up as a way to clock hours during my graduate school internship.

The following year, I signed up again but this time it was because I was asked by students. And I felt guilty. "Mrs. Dollar, every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria...will you help us raise awareness?"

And so I sponsored the club a second year and a third year and a fourth year.

As a service learning project, our A4A kids decided that they wanted to send school supplies to a Middle School in Kenya. A parent in the community was on a church mission team and told our club about a school that needed school supplies. By school supplies I don't mean Ipads or dry erase boards. The school we were going to support needed items like pencils and paper. Items like markers and colored paper would be almost inconceivable to students who at best used two pencils a year.

As part of the project, our club members set up a Facebook account using my personal email. This was a way to document what the students were learning.

And then something unexpected happened.

One of our students was on a computer and was going to post a picture from a recent ice cream sale. There was a gasp and then a half-scream. "Mrs. Dollar...they told us thank you!"

I bolted to the computer and what I saw made my mouth drop open and my heart race! On the screen, seemingly bigger than life were five students holding up construction paper we sent with the words: Thank You America 4 Africa drawn with colorful markers. Their faces spoke volumes!

As the new  year begins, I can't help but be reminded how simple it can be to foster student awareness that the world is bigger than their school or their community. I saw with my own eyes how one small act of kindness can impact the world.

Update: Since I first wrote this blog, I received a Facebook notification from my America 4 Africa account over the winter break.

Harrison wrote: hey thats me first one.
I replied: That's awesome! How old are you?
He replied: im 21 now thanks for you concern

Sometimes magic just happens.

Confession Reflection:
  •  What are the benefits of teaching global citizenship to our students?
  • Why is it important to empower students to find ways to help others?
  • How does service learning build the capacity for showing empathy in students?