Thursday, March 15, 2018

Day 2 of service is usually when everything begins to click for our students. We taught in 5 classrooms again and found that we were even more comfortable and confident with our new role as teachers. The dental clinic was also running like a well-oiled machine, and our students were able to treat both Belizean students and community members alike. Our final day of service is today and we're focused on going out on a such a high note!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Our first day of service was such a blast! ISLP partners with Independence High School in Independence, Belize to deliver relevant and important curriculum topics to their students. The first day of teaching is always the trickiest, but our group met every challenge and did such an incredible job in the classroom. Looking forward to Day 2! 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

We spent our Monday morning bundling up in sunscreen and slogging through white sand covered beaches. South Water Caye is always a favorite excursion for our group, and the weather this year was spectacular yet again. We dive head first into service tomorrow, but for today we just dove into these warm, crystal clear waters, saw some coral and fish and stingrays, and even found time for a volleyball match.

Monday, March 12, 2018

And we're off! Our first full day in Belize was filled with speed boat rides, exploring Mayan ruins, and road tripping across most of the country to our home for the week, the town of Dangriga. We have now settled in here and are going out on the Caribbean for another excursion tomorrow! More soon!

Friday, March 9, 2018

It’s about that time. 
It’s about time for the University of Louisville to take on Belize. After weeks of preparation, students from the university’s Criminal Justice, Communication, Nursing, Dental, and Law programs can’t get to the airport soon enough.
Not only are we looking forward to sandy beaches and clear waters after months of cold weather and school work, but we are also looking forward to giving back to our Central American hosts. For three days, we will be teaching local high students about topics relating to our respective disciplines. I for one am really looking forward to it, as I’ve always enjoyed working with kids. I am also looking forward to getting to know UofL students who otherwise I would probably never get the chance to meet. At times, in the Law school it can sort of feel like you are quarantined off from the rest of campus, so getting to know these students from other programs will be really cool.
 I do have to give a shout out to the crew from the Law school though. I am the only second-year, traveling with five third-years to Belize for a week, most of whom I barely knew prior to this program. This is probably the most stressful semester of their academic career, as the infamous Bar exam is right around the corner. Despite that, their upbeat attitude and sense of humor has been awesome while we’ve prepared for this trip. I’m certain that Belize will be just what the doctor ordered for them, and will help get them across the finish line. Bring on the Sun!
-Tom Leonard - Law - Belize 2018

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Nursing, dental, criminal justice, law, and communication; we have it all! Belize is right around the corner, and we have put our hard work and dedication into making the most out of this trip. For the past few weeks, the multi-disciplinary teams have been preparing a lesson plan for the high-school students to teach about their specific discipline. We are excited to leave to enjoy some sunshine, warm weather, and hang with the kids! Stay tuned!

Jasmyn Hamilton - Nursing - Belize 2018

Thursday, December 21, 2017

MAYBE: Cebu in Review
By Georgia Connally

"Ask the spirits a question, and throw the stones onto the floor," the Taoist monk told me. I stood staring at him, confused. This felt like a lot of pressure. Here I was standing in a brightly painted, ornate temple. Initially I felt overwhelmed by the design, the time it must have taken to create. But now, I felt overwhelmed by the silence. No one speaks inside the temple. The only words we utter must be directed to the spirits.

As I knelt down holding my incense, I thought about what the monk told me to do. How could I choose only one question? I could ask for fortune, success, a happy marriage, health. I was sure that many before me had asked for those very things. But for me, was this something I needed? Did I need all of that? Suddenly, I felt the eyes of the brightly painted deities upon me. I felt the silence. I realized that I did not need any of those things, because fulfillment does not require success, or fortune. I leaned forward and touched my head to the floor as the monk had done. 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 he smiled.
At the time I remember thinking that maybe was not the answer I wanted. I wanted, as so many of us do, a definitive yes. An encouragement, a path.

Over the course of the next couple days, we immersed ourselves in the culture of Cebu. We met locals and taught in local high schools. We shopped at markets and learned cultural dances. The first day with my students was terrifying. We approached the school in our van and were greeted with tiny faces waving American flags, Filipino flags and flags for their school. They lined the streets and smiled, singing our praises as we got out of the van. As I looked around, I saw a tiny girl without shoes, wearing dirty clothes, with apparent health issues. I cried when we locked eyes. In hindsight, I feel guilty now for pitying her. What she did next was one of the most impactful things I have ever seen. She smiled, and she hugged me. 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.

Over the next couple of days, I had the good fortune of teaching students in a classroom at Binaliw National High School. My students told me that they wanted to be engineers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, and scientists. I learned that they all walk to school—everyday—in the rain or shine, they walk to school because they want to learn. In the classroom, they devoted their time to answering my questions and getting involved with the lessons. They impressed me every day.
For instance, I asked the students to participate in show and tell. Two students participated: one brought a pencil, and the other brought a stick. The girl who brought the stick told me that she brought the stick because she is like a stick. She gets wet sometimes, when she is in pain or has hard times, and like a stick she breaks when she is wet. But, she said, she will dry at the end of the day—and she will still be a stick. I was awestruck.

The girl that brought the pencil told me that the pencil represents the story of her life. She is the point, always writing out her story and making decisions about how it will end. And, her friends are the eraser, correcting her mistakes as she goes. She clarified that without the eraser, she would not feel comfortable writing her story, she would be afraid she could not fix her mistakes. I was speechless.

These are the types of students I lived with, I learned from, I taught. 

From the outside looking in, it seemed like we, as Americans, had the better life. We have iphones, and indoor plumbing and electricity. But what we lack, they had—they have—in abundance: happiness and fulfilment. 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 remember being stunned by their response. I wondered why they loved their home so much when they were so aware of the poverty and other issues. So 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. I would bet that most would complain about the traffic.

When I left Binaliw National High School, I promised the students that I would return. I intend to keep that promise. I need to see those selfless little people become the engineers, doctors, and lawyers that I know they will be.  As I sit here, safely on my couch back in the US of A, I realize now why the Taoist monk smiled when he told me "Maybe." We are all tasked with determining what will make our lives fulfilling. It is different for every person, and every day is a new step... in a new direction. It is up to us to make sure that direction is a fulfilling one. Maybe, that "maybe" was just the encouragement I needed after all.  By serving others we can learn a lot about each other, we can learn a lot about ourselves and we can achieve fulfilment. As the principal of one Cebu high school said during our welcoming ceremony "What you do for yourself dies when you do, what you do for others lives on through them." I would like to think that service is how we turn that "maybe" into a "YES".