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Social Work students prepare for Guatemala trip

Thursday, 05 February 2009

Four University of Maine at Presque Isle students are heading out on the learning opportunity of a lifetime this week as part of an international service learning and Social Work experience.

Kasey Knowles, Skowhegan, senior Behavioral Science student; Laura Long, Blaine, senior Social Work student; Jessica Plant, Perth Andover, NB, junior Social Work student; and Tia Shaw, Perth Andover, NB, senior Social Work student, leave on Feb. 13 for their Guatemala Service Learning Project.

The four will travel with Social Work Professor Shirley Rush to Guatemala to spend a week in and around Quetzaltenango, serving as volunteers in community development projects throughout the region. They will be doing renovation work at a kindergarten building in Xela, the indigenous term for the town of Quetzaltenango. They will be among a group of 22 volunteers, who come from all over the U.S. and range in age from 7 to 70, participating in the week of service in Xela.

The inspiration for the trip came following a Social Work trip to the United Nations and Fordham University in Spring 2008. Students have worked since May 2008 to research and develop the project, create a fundraising strategy and execute these activities. The cost of the trip, not including faculty advisor expenses, was estimated at just under $12,000 based on the cost of program participation (they are working with a volunteer program called Cross Cultural Solutions), transportation, lodging, immunizations, passports and insurance. Students were asked to do equal amounts of individual fundraising, collective fundraising, and grant writing and scholarships to pay for the trip.

A potluck and blessing for the project will be held the day before the group's departure, on Thursday, Feb. 12 from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in CC 118. All are welcome to attend.

After their return, students intend to present their experiences at the NASW Maine Conference in Rockland, to be held in April 2009. They will also present at University Day.

In April, the group also hopes to host a Guatemala "fiesta." The event is expected to include a public forum, including a book discussion, students' feedback about their activities in Guatemala as well as food, music and photos.

"Our idea is to say thank you to the campus and community for all the support we have received," Rush said.

For more information about this trip, contact Shirley Rush at 768-9427.