MLK Student Forum on Global Learning: Reflecting on "Deconstructing Community Service: Creating Impact at Home"

Deconstructing Community Service: Creating Impact at Home!
Does the greatest service impact take place when one identifies and addresses a challenge in one's home as opposed to elsewhere? Growing up in Nepal and Ghana respectively, Pawan and George share how they came to recognize their countries’ broken educational systems—something that inspired and led them to make a difference. Pawan went home to teach in a public school in his native village in Nepal as a Tucker Fellow while introducing students to the art of experiential learning through movie making. George founded Project iSWEST (Innovating Solutions with Engineering, Science and Technology), a program aimed at creating an “Innovation Revolution” in Ghana. The project was coordinated to provide a short-term training in basic electronics, robotics, computer and Arduino programing. Pawan and George address what enabled them to not just create meaningful experiences for themselves but also contribute greatly to their respective communities.”

- Excerpt from the Program Note

On the special occasion of Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. day celebration, we were two of the many students who shared their reflections on their experiences learning and living globally at the 2014 Student Forum on Global Learning. Both of us attended several of the presentations including an insightful opening remark by President Hanlon, who stressed on Dartmouth’s commitment to global partnerships and laid bare his vision for Dartmouth in the coming years. We heard some amazing stories from fellow Dartmouth students about their global experiences, and learnt a great deal about the opportunities Dartmouth provides to students to really test themselves in the world.

While most students presented on the Forum about their time abroad doing internships or research projects, we talked about our experiences working in our native communities in Ghana and Nepal. Presenting in our traditional attire to reflect the theme of our presentation, we began with each of us sharing our individual experiences serving our respective communities, and concluded by reflecting on the advantages we had working at home.

George explained briefly about his program Project iSWEST which is an annual summer program in Ghana to get high school students to develop innovative solutions to problems in their communities by inspiring them to be creative and then equipping them with the requisite tools, soft and hard - basic science, engineering and technology (SET) - skills. After 3 grant rejections, George’s hope of going back home in Summer 2013 to implement Project iSWEST was crushed. However, bent on not making his dream wait a year, George coordinated with a team of friends back home to run a pilot form of the program dubbed “Project iSWEST 2013”. The team with their own funds and resources gave a 1-week training session to about 15 students in the areas of electronics, robotics, computer programing, and arduino programing in Accra, Ghana’s capital city.

Pawan then talked briefly about his own experience as a Tucker Fellow in his native village in Nepal. Pawan had always wanted to spend some time in his village and learn more about the place he was born in. He also wanted to pursue his passion for teaching in the school his dad and his uncles matriculated from and so he relished the opportunity to do so. He spent about six weeks there, got to know the community better, and gave back to the community that has been proudly calling him its “son."

Both of us then reflected on what our experiences meant to us and our communities. As natives, we had opportunities to serve our communities better and in a more unique way than we would have had, has we explored other communities in foreign lands. We talked about how our familiarity with the culture and different social aspects of our communities enabled us to plan our projects effectively, and about how we were able to adapt easily whenever complications arose. Finally, we shared about how both of us developed an enhanced sense of personal identity from being able to make a difference in our respective communities as sons of our lands.

George Boateng '16
We ended our presentation mentioning that everyone has been put in some place of advantage and has the capacity to make a difference at home, be it their high school, town, country or wherever one calls home. We urged everyone to be aware of the challenges and imperfections at home, find something they are passionate about and work on their passion to positively impact their homes.

We were very delighted when after our presentation, a friend mentioned that he was inspired hearing our stories. Presenting at the Student Forum on Global Learning was a great learning experience for both of us - learning more about each other’s passion and country. But it was not just a great learning experience. It was also an amazing journey for both of us - one of reflecting on our passions, sharing our reflections, and motivating ourselves and others to serve communities we each identify with.

--Written by Pawan Dhakal ‘16 and George Boateng ‘16, MLDP Winter 2014 Participant