After returning from a two week project at MCM and in surrounding villages this past June, Binghamton University student, Jennifer Wapiski-Moordian, wrote in her blog post “at the farewell ceremony with the staff and students of MCM, I made my promise to do everything in my power to return again next year. I want to continue to build the relationships that were established. I want to witness change in this small part of the world. I don’t want to be just another white person who came once and was never seen again. I believe that I am better than that, and so are others at Binghamton University.”
The BU service learning project was lead by instructors Lisa Blitz, PhD, LCSW-R and Denise Yull, EdD, through the College of Community and Public Affairs Department of Social Work. In preparation the group met for 6 weeks in class to develop a 2 week on the ground agenda utilizing an asset-based community development approach to promote the social-emotional wellbeing of the youth and families in the region.
What developed through a series of meetings in the 3 surrounding villages, according to Blitz, was MCM’s Women’s Initiative which “collectively develops, initiates and sustains projects that teach basic business skills to small groups of women so they can develop and sustain their own entrepreneurial endeavors and generates income that creates start up funds for separate community-run businesses”. The first group project is producing soap to be sold at local tourist markets and hotels. Once established the economic development program will help support the education of children in each village.
The long-term project provides a sustainable solution to the unemployment and lack of job opportunity in the area while harnessing the strengths of this tight knit community. BU’s staff and students are committed to the program’s long term success and the people they grew to know.
As Bridgette Hathaway’s promise is expressed, “As I assimilate back into my everyday living, I find I have learned far more than I taught….I find the challenge within my newly acquired knowledge and look forward to harnessing my, and my community’s, inner strengths to educate others of our global needs and further the work underway in Malawi.”
Not everyone can travel to Malawi. It’s not always feasible to switch careers to create change thousands of miles away. The question becomes “What can you promise a child in need?” Can you tell their story? Pass on a blog? Like a Facebook post? Share your talent? Commit financial support? Knowing that in doing you will learn much about yourself.