After 40 years working with social change organizations, I retired and joined the US Peace Corps. From 2009 to 2011, I served in Konotop, Ukraine. Then in 2015 to 2016, I served in Skopje, Macedonia as a Organizational Development Specialist. Now I live in Washington, DC where I'm enjoying family and friends, creating art and volunteering for positive social change.
The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin
Saturday, February 12
Civic Engagement and Service Learning
“Can you help us develop a grant for Civic Engagement,” comes the invitation from Tatyana, the Director of the Poly-Technical School?
Tatyana is a graduate of an American Exchange Program that took her and a few others from Konotop to Ames, Iowa. Now there is an opportunity for a grant to further Civic Engagement locally.
I arrive for a meeting. It’s a small world. By coincidence, my brother and his wife lived in Ames for most of their married life. Warren taught biology at the Iowa State University and Judy directed the campus YWCA. They never met Tatyana, but amazingly they share friends in common. Because of this Ames connection, I think Tatyana and I share a special friendship.
Her request to help develop a grant comes unexpectedly. Initially, I have no idea what to suggest. I fret about it for a couple of days before the meeting. I am honored to be asked and increasingly I’m afraid I have nothing to say.
As a last gasp for something, I start looking at my Peace Corps Training Portfolio. I’m looking for ideas, any ideas. But there is nothing. I sort through more files and dust off my assortment of how-to manuals. I am getting desperate.
Suddenly, Service Learning jumps out at me. In the first summer of my Peace Corps experience, I attended training about Service Learning.
When I returned to Konotop, I tried to interest a few people, but it went nowhere. I placed the how-to booklet behind my shoes in the bottom of my armoire. It stayed there until today.
I quickly research the idea on the Internet and put together a one page fact sheet translated into Russian. I put a call through to the Peace Corps Office and get them to send me all the materials they have on Service Learning. Strikingly, they have been translated into Ukrainian. I am soaring high. Who would have thought that such a great idea would be lying dormant in my armoire?
Briefly if you don’t already know, “Service-Learning isa teaching strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. “
I think it is a perfect idea for Civic Engagement. At our meeting Tatyana agrees. She asks whether Service Learning is common. I say, “It’s growing in America, but maybe not so much in Ukraine.” She smiles and says, “Maybe we will be the first.”
But there is more. Tatyana goes on to explain that she is finishing her doctoral degree on educational pedagogy emphasizing engagement of students. We both see a wonderful merging of her academic work with Service Learning and this grant opportunity.
Others are called into our meeting and soon assignments are made to develop the grant. I will help with the English translation.
I leave the meeting with a glow of satisfaction. Sometimes all the pieces do fit together. In another small way, the Peace Corps is making a difference in the world.