Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Did you know some of our faculty have been part of ISLP for more than 15 years! Because of their dedication and hard work, we thought it was time to put them under the spotlight. Learn more about our first featured professor, Dr. Joy Hart.

Joy Hart – Professor, Department of Communication

Who or what encouraged you to join ISLP?
I enjoy travel and my favorite type is to places that are off the highly traveled paths.  I spent the last semester of my undergraduate program in Ecuador and that fueled parts of this passion.  Also, my colleague, Dr. Kandi Walker, was the catalyst for my ISLP involvement.

When did you join ISLP?
In the early 2000s.

How many ISL programs have you participated in? 
I’ve been fortunate to participate in them all – Belize, Barbados, Botswana, Croatia, the Philippines, and Trinidad and Tobago.  It’s been fun watching ISLP grow, and I look forward to its continued development.

What is one of your favorite memories from the trips?
There are SO many fond memories that it is hard to selected just one.  However, something I will always remember is the children who handcrafted flags from their nation and ours to welcome us to the Philippines. 

Any advice for students interested in ISLP?
I have lots of advice!  However, I would especially stress to take time to get to know people, talk with everyone you can, and enjoy your time away.  It is also important to be flexible—you will learn more from the journey than sticking with a pre-determined plan.

Is there a quote or saying you live by?
“Service is the rent we pay for being.  It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” –Marion Wright Edelman

What was the last emoji you used?
The red heart and a smiley face, but I am more into Xpresso these days.

What would we be surprised to find out about you?
Ha ha!  Probably lots of things!  Let’s go with this fun fact:  Science fiction is my favorite genre of books and movies. In fact, a group of friends and I used to go on opening day to see any science fiction movie playing in Louisville.  We saw some great ones, but also some truly terrible ones!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Not Your Average Spring Break

I’ve got teaching experience. I’ve collected my fair share of passport stamps. For the most part, my fellow ISLP classmates had either one or the other of these, if any at all. For this reason, I figured that these students would get far more out of the University of Louisville’s International Service Learning Program in Belize than I would.

Boy was I wrong.

Regardless of one’s own unique background and experiences, ISLP Belize will leave a lasting impression on you, and you will return home better because of it. During the course of the week, I saw introverts transform into outstanding teachers and speakers, full of personality. I saw people confront their fears. I saw big egos humble themselves for the betterment of a group. I even saw not-so-graceful people take center stage with native “Garifuna” dancers, and steal the show on the dance floor.

Our flight from Atlanta arrived in Belize City around noon. There, we treated ourselves to a hearty lunch, and headed toward our hotel, where we would stay for one night before departing to our new home for the week, the small village of Dangriga along the coast.

At this point, none of us really knew each other. We knew the students from our own respective disciplines, and at least knew the names of some of the other students that would eventually form our “teaching groups.” For the most part, we were still more or less sticking to ourselves.

The next day, the program had something special planned for us before we arrived in Dangriga. We boarded two fairly large speedboats, and they took us on a 25-mile, high-speed journey along the New River. The ride seemed like something out of a Disney World ride, complete with sharp, hairpin turns, and an abundance of nature to see along the way including bats, crocodiles, and exotic birds.

The boats eventually took us to Lamanai, an ancient Mayan community established around 100 B.C.E. As a history nerd myself, I was thrilled. Our tour guide there showed us to three magnificent pyramid temples: The Mask Temple, Jaguar Temple, and the awe-inspiring High Temple, all of which we were actually allowed to climb all over and take pictures. Lamanai itself was also rich with various flora and fauna itself, and our guide did an amazing job spotting them out and talking to us about them.

After what may have been my favorite meal of the trip, we left the ruins, got back in the boats, and began our three-hour ride to Dangriga, allowing us plenty of time to soak in the elaborate countryside of Belize.

Our first night in Dangriga allowed us ample time to wind down, and begin getting to know each other, which would turn out to be crucial in the days to come.

The following day, we had one more “personal day,” before we began teaching at Independence High School. After breakfast and coffee (or three in my case), we boarded some more boats, and took off into the Caribbean Sea towards the island of Saltwater Caye. This turned out to be an incredible day, one that really allowed us to begin bonding amongst the different disciplines. On the island, students had free reign to engage in various activities such as snorkeling in a coral reef, fishing, standing paddleboards, sand volleyball, or simply relaxing in hammocks along the beach.

The next three days involved the real reason we even traveled to Belize in the first place: the students at Independence High School. Before we left Louisville, we were assigned five teaching teams. Each team included at least one UofL student from the law school, nursing school, dental school, and criminal justice and communications departments. We did not know each other well back then, but now it was time to put up or shut up.

The law students developed a lesson plan centered around an anti-bullying campaign. Criminal Justice students taught about the different kinds of human trafficking. Nursing students taught about STIs and sexual health. The Communication students taught about recognizing one’s own personal growth. The Dental students were particularly impressive, teaching about oral hygiene, while also conducting a live clinic for students and locals, gaining real-world experience doing extractions, fillings, and cleanings for patients in dire need of such treatment.

Each day, we taught a different age group. The first day was probably the toughest for all of us, although I can really only attest to “Team 2.” We all knew our own respective lesson plans, but struggled to stay involved in one another’s. This, accompanied by the occasional unruly, misbehaving student threw a few monkey wrenches into our class. However, we got through it, and ran much smoother classes the following two days. By day 3, we were pretty much on fire.

Independence High School is much different from our schools here in the U.S. The classes have hard concrete floors, almost no heating and cooling, and minimal access to technology. These “hardships” aside, one key difference that I noticed was how much happier the students all seemed compared to us here in the states, despite their circumstances. For the most part these students were in great spirits, actively participated in our programs, and were very smart and eloquent speakers. Not to mention they had great senses of humor. This caught many of us off guard, and was very inspirational to see.

Many of these students have their own dreams and ambitions to one day become lawyers, nurses, police officers, or dentists, just as we do. That was also incredibly cool to see, and we really enjoyed some one-on-one conversations with them about our fields of choice.

By the end of the third day of classes, I began to realize that despite our coming to Belize to serve these kids, it just might be that they did far more for me than I could have ever done for them.

By the end of our final day at Independence High, comradery amongst the different disciplines was at an all-time high, especially in regards to our own respective teaching groups. Shout out to Nursing students Jasmyn Hamilton and Courtney Albers, Criminal Justice students Blaine Harris and Darian Schechter, Communication student Lillian Kopsillias, and Dental students Mark Olsen and Katelyn Fleming for doing such a great job with my group!

For our last full day in Belize, we were treated to a trip to the Belize Zoo to get an up-close encounter to some of the country’s magnificent native wildlife. After that, we took a trip to “Old Belize,” a makeshift waterpark complete with a waterslide, trampolines, a rope swing, and more sand volleyball. As disheartening as it was that our trip was coming to an end, this was such a fun time, and allowed us to just enjoy ourselves, be kids again, and blow off some steam after a few days of hard work.

Since we have gotten back to Louisville, many of us have remained in touch, and have made plans to do things together in the future. This is cool, considering we really did not know each other before the trip, and were only together for a week. The friendships and bonds that we made with each other, despite different areas of studies and different backgrounds and experiences is really something special, and is not something that just any program at UofL can offer.

To my fellow UofL students: If you are considering taking a trip to Belize, or any other ISLP program for that matter, apply. Don’t even think about it, just apply. Regardless of your teaching or travel experiences, or lack thereof, these programs have something for everybody. Take a chance, put yourself in situations that you have never been in before, step out of your comfort zone, and see the world in a light that maybe you never have before. You just may find that when it is all said and done, you will return home a better person for doing so, with memories and bonds that will last a lifetime.

Tom Leonard, Law - Belize, 2018

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