Caitlin Fitzgerald – 1851 Staff
While most Lasell students will relax at home during winter break, 11 will travel to Ecuador for one week – but not for a vacation. Instead these students are donating their time to help out the Ecuadorian community. They will represent Lasell and the “Shoulder-to-Shoulder” program by working with community experts to help improve the environment. Leading them will be Aaron Toffler, a professor of environmental studies and co-leader Amy Greene, assistant director of the Center for Community-Based Learning.
“Shoulder to Shoulder” is a program developed by professors who have led service-learning trips to Mexico for the past 10 years. Since 2002, trips have expanded to locations such as Ecuador, Uganda, Nicaragua, and Brazil. Each trip is scheduled at a different time between January and May and coordinates with school breaks.
The students get real world experience by working alongside community experts and helping prominent problems in the various locations. Students will also be immersed in the culture and learn about social issues in a global context.
Each trip has a different focus to meet the needs of the specific community such as poverty, inadequate housing, Eco-tourism, sustainable agriculture, and domestic violence. All trips aim to fulfill and maintain the “Shoulder-to-Shoulder” mission of working closely with community members.
“I wanted to explore more about South America’s sustainability,” said senior Ginna Giraldo, who will attend the trip this year and is also a native of Columbia. “I think it’s amazing because you just go there and discover Mother Nature. It brings you back to reality.”
On the day of departure, students arrive in the historical district of Quito, the capital of Ecuador. They stay there for the night and drive to a rural community the next morning, two hours outside of Quito. Students then work at a school and an operational hacienda or plantation. They spend their trip exploring the natural environment and meeting local people.
“We hope that each student will become immersed in the culture and environment of the country through the service we complete,” Greene said.
A common application must be completed and a student must choose their preferred “Shoulder-to-Shoulder” destination in order to attend the trip. If a student is selected, they must take a course the semester before the trip to prepare for the experience.
“We are searching for students who would like to see the world, love service, are open to new experiences, and are hard workers,” said Greene.