Four Waynesburg University students spent their fall break performing service work at a variety of community organizations in Louisville, Kentucky, from Saturday, Oct. 14, through Wednesday, Oct. 18. Dr. Ezekiel Olagoke, professor of sociology, and Sarah Bell, director of the Pathways Center, served as the trip leaders.
During this trip I was given the chance to speak with and grow within an African culture and my eyes were opened to how shut off Americans can truly be. I have grown through this experience to try and be a more welcoming and open person to those who live around me and not hide behind my technology and close my door to others.”
The focus of the trip was on globalization, immigration and community development, which students had the opportunity to learn about through work they completed at a number of local Louisville organizations. Service projects included serving food for refugees at a community cookout and assisting with the setup of a store through the Catholic Charities refugee services division to provide free access to clothing for refugee families in the area.
Through this unique experience, students were not only able to grow through serving others, but also through cultural immersion.
“Students were able to try different foods, including Indian, Congolese and Somalian cuisine,” shared Bell. “They attended a Congolese church service where they were able to actively participate in the service by singing, dancing and hearing Dr. Olagoke speak to the congregation. Following the service, one of the members of the congregation hosted us in his family home. He and his family cooked dinner for us, welcomed us and shared stories about their experiences as refugees in the U.S.”
As a part of their closing debrief, students visited a Somalian mall and engaged in conversations with refugees from several African cultures.
“This service trip was unique in that while it did prioritize service experiences, it equally placed value and time on cultural immersion,” said Bell.
Students were able to take away new outlooks on other cultures and compare the differences of those in the United States.
Junior student Mikayla Paules explained this integration of service coupled with the introduction to new communities allowed her to grow.
“During this trip I was given the chance to speak with and grow within an African culture and my eyes were opened to how shut off Americans can truly be,” shared Paules. “I have grown through this experience to try and be a more welcoming and open person to those who live around me and not hide behind my technology and close my door to others.”
The University partnered with Waynesburg alumnus Alex Tenenbaum (‘15), who actively works and serves refugees within Louisville, to organize the trip this year.
“I had a great experience co-leading the trip,” Bell remarked. “Seeing Waynesburg students engage in service, which is at the heart of our University mission, is always a worthwhile experience.”
“This trip was the best way for us to be invited and welcomed into a dozen new cultures and get to learn from them, while also teaching them about our own,” added Paules. “It was truly a blessed experience to live through.”
Participating students included:
- Zoe Belknap, senior psychology major from Vandergrift, Pennsylvania
- Hannah Koty, senior psychology major from Enon Valley, Pennsylvania
- Izabell Montani, sophomore human services major from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
- Makayla Paules, junior human services major from Dover, Pennsylvania