SALISBURY, MD---Some 30 Salisbury University undergraduate students recently spent two and a half days painting the walls of a courtyard at a public school for the economically disadvantaged in Cuenca, Ecuador. The service project was part of SU’s 2008 Intersession in Ecuador study abroad program.
The two-story facility painted by the students actually provides a home for three separate schools. The Escuela Ezequiel Crespo is an all boys elementary school for 700 students that operates from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. In the afternoon, the same space is occupied by the Gabriel Cevallos García School. With a separate administration and faculty, it serves 400 boys and girls in kindergarten to seventh grade. At night, Trece de Abril provides classes from elementary to high school for 200 children and adults who work during the day.
Altogether, some 1300 students benefitted from the work performed by the SU students. Many of the children who attend the three schools have been left behind with relatives while their parents support the family by working as undocumented immigrants in the United States and Western Europe. Other children are forced to work in street markets or perform other informal jobs around the city to support themselves.
The SU students scraped and painted the walls of the school courtyard along with Drs. Dennis Leoutsakas, faculty in the Communication and Theatre Arts Department, and Brian Stiegler, director of SU’s Center for International Education. While they worked, they were consistently interrupted by children seeking autographs or asking how to say their names and favorite animals in English. Others asked questions about life in the U.S., sports, hobbies and even Salisbury University!
Not only did the faculty, staff and children of the three schools appreciate the assistance, the SU students also enjoyed the experience. “It felt like we were their heroes,” said SU junior Elena Michalski of Penza, Russia. “They all wanted to shake our hands.”
Senior Christian Bocchichio of Annapolis said “It felt great to give something back to the community that had welcomed us so warmly.” Senior William Miciche, also of Annapolis, echoed the sentiment, saying, “It was great to see how much they appreciated it.”
The SU Intersession in Ecuador study abroad program just completed its 13th consecutive year. SU students began completing a service project following the program’s 10th anniversary in January 2005. Since then, the projects have involved renovating a childcare center and a home for children who live on the streets.
A four-week program, SU’s Intersession in Ecuador runs every January with the cooperation of The Centers for Interamerican Studies, a partner institution in Cuenca, Ecuador. Spanish coursework is offered through the Department of Modern Languages, while other classes are offered in English by the Communication and Theatre Arts Department. The History Department is planning a course in English for January 2009.
To enroll in next year’s SU Intersession in Ecuador Program, contact the SU Center for International Education at email@example.com or visit the program web site at www.salisbury.edu/inteled/ecuador/. For more information call 410-334-3495.