UMW News Bureau
Although University of Montana Western sophomore Jess Lammi recently volunteered her time and energy helping elderly citizens of a poverty-stricken suburb of Lima, Peru, the elementary education major/literacy minor says she received far more than she gave.
“They were so happy to see us,” Lammi recalls. “They were grateful for everything we did, as little as it was. As a class, we all discussed how we got more out of it than we could have ever given.”
Lammi went to Peru as part of UMW Assistant Professor of Education Dana Cotton’s Global Education in Latin America class. She was one of nine participants, mostly UMW students, who traveled to Peru in February 2013 as part of the service learning course.
In addition to the obvious benefits of cultural exposure for her students, Cotton says her main focus was using the opportunity to engage students in service learning work.
“It gave me more knowledge to build upon, especially in Montana where we don’t get the opportunity to work with many other cultures,” Flanary says. “It helped me to improve my communication and not just with children.”
While Flanary and several other participants assisted at the after-school program, across the district Lammi and her colleagues were busy at the senior center helping to make meals from scratch, joining the seniors in traditional Peruvian dances, visiting local markets and also making home visits.
“They were just happy to have someone to interact with,” Lammi says. “Many of the seniors were illiterate, and it made me realize how important education is overall for any age.”
When their respective service learning projects were over the class was able to get in a bit of sightseeing as well, venturing to the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, Cusco and Saqsaywaman.
Upon their return, the class presented on their travels to the Montana Western campus. Cotton says the trip was a success. She was particularly proud of her students.
“I am incredibly impressed by these students,” Cotton says. “Each of them put in the energy to serve, and each were able to reflect critically about all aspects of that service. It was a powerful and fun trip. I am proud to have worked and traveled with this group of students.”