There is Hope Campaign 2012: Dominica
Every spring break, the Caribbean Students’ Association (CSA) at Columbia University plans, fund-raises for and executes our international service trip: The There is Hope Campaign (THC). THC seeks to address three aims: one- to develop in students a critical consciousness of their history and culture and knowledge of how this shapes their identity, two- to empower students to see their place and influence on a global scale and three- to inspire change and help to improve educational models in the Caribbean. THC is in its third year, we have previously been to Jamaica (2010) and Grenada (2011), and I am pleased to see the campaign’s evolution as we have become more attuned to the needs of this new generation of Caribbean youth. This year, CSA chose to visit the Nature Island of the Caribbean- Dominica and I am proud to say that we have just completed a very successful trip. The 6- person THC team volunteered for one week at Mahaut Primary School in the east of the small island and engaged the older students in one-hour workshops focusing on the topics of history, identity and culture, sustainable development, and skills to succeed. We also had to opportunity to interact with the younger ones and present our messages in the form of short stories and group discussions.
I can safely say that all six of us were amazed at the astuteness of our students who participated in our discussion style teaching and quickly grasped the core concepts that we were trying to reinforce- that a healthy self-esteem is shaped by understanding the different facets of one’s identity, and that as Caribbean students we can all be proud of and empowered by the unique heritage and culture that are shared by people in all the islands. And, the teaching and learning was a mutual journey- the THC team was able to learn so much about our own identity and culture from our students who both welcomed us unhesitatingly and also validated the mission of THC by sharing their goals and dreams with us. I was blown away with the warmth and hospitality of everyone that we had the pleasure of meeting while on the island. The THC team had the privilege to meet with the Honorable Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica as well as with other high-ranking officials in the Ministry of Education and the two local universities. We were able the share the mission and goals of the campaign with these influential persons, stimulate dialogue about early childhood education and stress the importance of critical thinking as an over-arching means to self- empowerment. Everyone was incredibly receptive to our message and I am sure that the discussion would be continued even after we left. We also had the opportunity of being the featured guests on a local one-hour television talk show and of being interviewed by two of the local television news programs in order to spread the word of our mission of self-empowerment.
The THC team was also able to utilize our down time to explore the unspoiled natural beauty of the island from the second- largest boiling lake in the world to the only UNESCO world heritage site in the Eastern Caribbean to the island’s many idyllic waterfalls and rivers. Being in the Caribbean is like being home to all of us on the team, and we truly enjoyed the good food, the beautiful landscape and the warmth of the people. This was without question a very insightful and inspiring trip and one that we will not soon forget.
Trip Leader Spring 2012