Belize: Beyond the Blue Skies and Clear Waters

Caldwell Students volunteering to build a house in Belize

Belize: Beyond the Blue Skies and Clear Waters

A Reflection on Short-term Service Trips

  September 6  –  September 27

Reception: Homecoming Saturday, September 24th  12:30 – 2 pm

Mini-Lecture by Sean Puzzo: Homecoming Saturday at 12 noon in the Gallery

This exciting exhibition features photography and written reflections on short-term service trips by Caldwell University students and faculty members. The writing and photography attempt to capture and share the sense of discovery, place and community many may not have the chance to experience.

Since 2013 Caldwell University has taken small groups of students, faculty, and staff to Belize to serve in the poorest district of Belize, Toledo. Belize is a third world nation.  When you take a step back from the beauty of the resorts and one is met with the fact that Belize’s coast is far different from its interior. The Caldwell group has stayed at St. Peter Claver Parish in Punta Gorda, a small coastal town in the Toledo District. Punta Gorda serves as the “base camp” each year from which the group travels from to their service sites.

Short-term service experiences offer students the opportunity to experience a new location and community in a way that is different that study abroad. Optimally, students learn about history, culture, economy, the complexity of social issues, and a way of life through first hand experiences, in either a domestic or international setting. Engaging in short-term service learning trips promotes tolerance and the reduction of stereotypes by working with unfamiliar populations.  It also nourishes personal development, self-efficacy, and leadership.  And when successful, the volunteers leave without seeing themselves as heroes, but with enduringly deep connections and an awareness of the need for long-term partnership with the community.

Short-term service learning trips can at times have mixed results and these pose challenges for the next group to reach for. There is the realization that during the short-term of service students gain only limited perspectives on the culture and location they are visiting. These trips can also lead to a dependency by the community being served, on the services or goods returning again and again. Service trips can be costly. Is it better to send down ten volunteers costing $30,000 to build a wall with the community, or the $30,000 to the community to build the wall for themselves?

When students volunteer in these communities they forge relationships, learn valuable life lessons as well as practical ones. Ideally, the monetary cost of the service experiences can and should be balanced by the students’ commitment to applying what they have learned on the trips into their lives and a deeper desire to increase awareness around the conditions and issues they have come to understand. In ‘Belize: Beyond the Blue Skies and Clear Waters’  the photographs,  reflections and ongoing questions celebrate the personal connections, work completed and the ongoing effort to discover and contribute effectively to worlds beyond our personal and national boundaries.

This event is free and open to the public
Gallery hours: Daily 9-5 PM
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