Learning’s the order of the day here for the next month as we embark on our service learning programme with the University of Guelph from Ontario, Canada. This is our first year of partnership with them and we hope there will be many more to come.
The group of fifteen students led by Assistant Professor of Political Science at the university, Andrea Paras, has come to Dharamsala India to learn about giving service in a community abroad. The focus of the students’ course is to examine in a practical way the benefits, challenges and negative impacts of international volunteering. They also look at the ethics of short-term volunteer experiences and how the benefits of these programmes can be maximized for organizations and volunteers, and how more meaningful partnerships can be developed. They will write a paper based on their studies and their subsequent experiences working in an NGO here in Dharamsala.
The students have been placed in a variety of NGOs in the area, ranging from human rights organisations to schools in the slums to animal rescue. The experience for them will not only benefit their university education, but also give them invaluable human connections that will remain with them all their lives. The NGOs in turn should benefit from the students’ hard work whilst they are here, and from their findings and observations they will report at the end of the programme.
Apart from the voluntary work, we have a plethora of guest speakers who have kindly agreed to talk with them on a range of topics from women’s issues in India to life as a Tibetan in exile. Their life experiences and knowledge will enhance the learning experience and help give a wider view of what exactly is going on here in the community.
There will also be time for some relaxation and enjoyment. Yoga, Ayurvedic medicine, local temples and forts and a Himalayan trek are but a few of the activities we have lined up for the students. They are sure to be happily exhausted by the end.
Stay tuned for updates as the programme progresses and don’t forget to tune in to the students’ reflections here: