An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Kaiz E. ’19

Sixteen Upper School students are currently in Colombia for a three-week Global Service Learning experience that is part of the Spanish IV/V immersion class, Resistance, Empowerment, and Independence. Starting in September, the students studied resistance and liberation movements in Latin America with a focus on Colombia. In Colombia, as part of their service work, students will interview and video record community members about their experiences with Colombian resistance movements. The students are living with host families in a very close-knit rural community where no one speaks English. Students regularly post reflections as part of their learning process.

We had such an exciting day today! We started at the hotel in S____, where we ate a traditional Colombian breakfast. I had huevos con perico (scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions), pan (bread), and café con leche (coffee). After everyone had breakfast, we walked over to Sembrandopaz with Vero.

At Sembrandopaz, we heard from its founder, Ricardo. Ricardo told us about the organization, its mission and vision, and how it functions in villages. Many of us found this talk to be very informative; Sembrandopaz, as we learned, is a national organization dedicated to helping communities of need, especially those which have been subjected to violence. It currently operates in four different villages in the district (like a state) of Sucre…. Sembrandopaz works to ensure that, firstly, these villages have access to basic human resources and rights, including shelter, food, and water. It also establishes goals for economic development, ensuring that those goals are targeted towards the needs of the village and its people, and not a projection of western ideas. Furthermore, the organization has other groups which work to create sustainable living and agriculture, civic engagement, and spirituality (which is not organized religion, rather, it is something like hope).

After lectures from various leaders within Sembrandopaz, we played some games while waiting for lunch – among them being Ninja, Frisbee, and Rock-Paper-Scissors. We had a delicious home-cooked lunch at Sembrandopaz, before hopping on the bus to [our host village].

The ride was about 30 minutes, during which we were all excited (and nervous) to meet our host families. When we arrived, we were met by almost the entire village at the salón de la comunidad (community center). The community was so happy and excited to meet us; they started clapping when we got off the bus…. It was very interesting to see that they thought of it as a privilege that we had chosen them – we’re the ones who are privileged to be a part of such an amazing community!

The community welcomed us with speeches from its leaders, most of which expressed their excitement at our arrival. They also showed a quick slideshow of photos from the community, so that we could better see where we were about to be living. After other members of the community had a chance to tell us about their hopes for our trip, each of us shared a little bit about ourselves, our lives, and what we were excited about. We also got to meet our host families, which resulted in many hugs and laughs.

The people of [the village] had also prepared a presentation of dance for us. A few dancers showed us their moves, which were quite beautiful and fluid. Then, we were invited to join them. This resulted in much embarrassment, as we had practically no idea what we were doing. The dancers showed us many different types of dance, some fast and some slower, none of which we were able to replicate. After about half an hour – and what seemed like an eternity of embarrassment – we had dinner with our families.

The entire community ate a traditional meal together, after which we went to our homestays. For me, while it was very awkward at first, it quickly became better after I started talking with my family. We spent the rest of the night with our families, meeting all of them and learning about their culture. We’re all very excited to spend our first night in the village!