One of my new roles at the UBL is to coordinate the TSU or “University Social Work.” In Costa Rica, all university students are required to complete 150 hours of volunteer community work in order to graduate. Our foreign students had been exempt until last year, but now all students are included. Although it is a major burden time-wise for the students, since they must add this work to their already heavy class load, it has provided a number of interesting experiences for them.
Several students worked with the National Parks system, clearing out weeds. One served in a public library, another in a school library. One student established a program to work with senior adults, with activities ranging from lunch to crafts with recycled materials. Two are teaching sports at a Catholic boarding school for troubled boys and another worked with “Soccer for Life,” a program for inner-city youth. One is teaching English in an inner-city tutoring program. Several have volunteered at a daycare. One student prepared an elaborate “Ecology Club” for elementary age children, with a brilliant combination of teaching and hands-on activities that aim to clean up the neighborhood and teach care for the earth.
It is an important way for them to “give back” as well as to enter new contexts that they would not otherwise have experienced, especially for the foreign students. It helps them to connect their Christian commitment to the wider world and to see how their witness has broader implications. At the same time, it provides valuable help to a number of non-profit organizations.
- For me, that I might be effective in helping students to learn new conflict transformation and relational skills that will create a supportive and nurturing environment on campus.
- For our students, that they will persevere in the midst of their challenging academic schedule.
- For our new Rectora (President) and Administrator, as they adjust to us and we to them, and as they seek to provide us with vision and structure for the future.
Together with you in service,