WSU Students Spend Summer Serving Around the World

OGDEN, Utah — Throughout the summer, groups of Weber State University students and faculty traveled abroad to experience new cultures while learning lessons in service.

Six of the university’s summer study abroad programs included community engagement components, which provided opportunities to serve and learn more about the local needs in places such as Ghana, Thailand, China, Uganda and Nordic countries.

Medical Assistance in Ghana

Groups visiting Ghana provided free health assessments to nearly 1,000 Ghanaians. Volunteers also donated everyday necessities such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and first-aid kits. Trip participants also helped build and paint a new school, as well as renovate an existing school.

Lisa Trujillo led the trips for more than 11 years as a WSU respiratory therapy associate professor. In 2016, she helped the University of Ghana implement the country’s first and only respiratory therapy degree program.

“During one of our clinics, a young man approached me to offer his thanks,” Trujillo said. “Through the translation by our assistant, he said that we had assisted him with a health assessment and health care costs two years ago. He was treated for asthma and is now able to manage his disease.”

The man gifted Trujillo a small beaded bracelet, which she said he must have personally sacrificed to purchase.

“This is only one example of the many reminders that the work we are doing is impactful and meaningful to our Ghanaian friends,” Trujillo said. “The success of our trips is possible thanks to Ghanaians’ willingness to welcome us into their communities, homes and lives. For that, we are deeply grateful.”

 Teaching English in Thailand

Students traveled to Thailand in July to continue work on a project that uses technology to improve English proficiency. The team of 16 students and faculty delivered and tested custom-built Android app prototypes, which use traditional Thai folklore to increase English communication skills.

Last year, Richard Fry, computer science professor, collaborated with WSU’s Jerry & Vickie Moyes College of Education to interview children in Thailand and collect cultural stories in their native language. Then they converted and digitized the stories, building them into interactive storytelling apps.

The goal is to provide opportunities to learn English, so children can attend local universities in Thailand, which require English proficiency. English language skills also help Thai citizens obtain well-paying jobs within the local tourism and hospitality industries.

“It is our hope that these applications will help the Thai students improve their verbal communication skills as they interact with the stories in spoken English,” Fry said.

 Visiting Schools in Nordic Countries, Russia & Estonia

Seventeen College of Education students received in-depth lessons on how far-flung countries run their education systems when they traveled to Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Russia.

In order to fully understand the structure of Nordic schools, WSU students spent three days at the Veikkola School in Finland, where they observed local students learning daily lessons and taught them American games.

WSU education students came home with valuable knowledge they can incorporate in their future careers, according to Natalie Williams, teacher education professor. In Finland, young students get 30 minutes of outside play for every 45-minute lesson. They don’t stigmatize special education, and they greatly respect their teachers.

“Schools felt so warm in Finland,” Wiliams said. “If our future teachers could understand they’re able to build that feeling within a classroom, it could influence lots of kids.”

 Project Uganda

Thirty students, faculty, staff and campus community members traveled to Nyafumba, Uganda, in June for three weeks of service and learning. This is the sixth international trip hosted by WSU’s Global Community Engaged Learning (GCEL) initiative.

 During this year’s trip, group members worked with the Lee Family Foundation and Hope4Kids International to improve access to education and economic conditions of the people in rural Africa.

 "While our GCEL initiative collaborates with global communities, this experience was unique in that we were able to also collaborate with some generous Weber State alumni,” said Mike Moon, Center for Community Engaged Learning assistant director. “Through our partnership with the Lee family and Hope4Kids International, our students learned their role in global aid. They learned about active citizenship and how they can take responsible action to solving global problems. It's enlightening to see our students learn more about, and gain an appreciation for, people, culture and place."

 Group members completed four main projects, including constructing a food-storage facility, drinking fountains, a perimeter fence around a health clinic, as well as building a new home for an elderly widow caring for her grandchildren. They improved the housing for school educators and administrators in order to help attract quality teachers to the area. They also worked on education programs and gathered donations for books to be incorporated in the Lee Preparatory Academy classrooms and library.

 Cambodia, Thailand & Vietnam

Making connections and providing health care services, a group of 32 students and community members participated in the Global Health Practicum. Sponsored by the School of Nursing in the Dr. Ezekiel R. Dumke College of Health Professions, the group traveled through Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

In Thailand, group members spent time at an orphanage focused on rescuing children from trafficking. In Vietnam, they studied the difference in nursing education from that of the U.S. In Cambodia, group members provided well-child checkups for 350 children. They also taught neonatal resuscitation and other emergency procedures to health care employees.

“This trip will forever impact my professional life,” said Jackson Pohlman, a senior in nursing. “Nursing instructors, BSNs, RNs, LPNs, CNAs and non-medical professionals came together and helped teach a critical skill that will help the future generations in Cambodia.

This trip was one that I will never forget. Thank you to the nursing instructors, donors and the group of students that helped make this experience happen.”

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