Students are traveling to Africa and India

Two new sites are added to academic service learning semester program for next year | March 30, 2004

The academic service learning semester program is adding two new sites for next year - one in Ghana on the continent of Africa for spring 2005 and the other in Delhi in northern India for this fall.

The Ghana program is temporarily replacing the long-standing Nicaragua site for next year only, while the shift to India is a permanent replacement for Nepal. Program associate director Patrick Welage says the political instability in Nepal, plus a travel warning issued by the U.S. Department of State about the region, forced them to find a new site.

"Now, rather than being country specific we're being region specific," Welage said. "We're looking at Asia, but shifting from Nepal to India because of the travel warning."

The program's third site, the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati, remains in place.

"We are expanding the program to help our students learn how to be men and women for others," says Welage. "It fits well with the Jesuit identity and mission."

Students accepted to one of the three academic service learning semester sites take academic courses, live with host families and do volunteer work at agencies and institutions in their new communities. The program began 10 years ago in a barrio of Managua, Nicaragu. Each trip requires a faculty member to agree to be the trip leader, living among the students, teaching classes and managing relationships with the families, the service agencies and the Jesuits who participate in the program.

The main reason students can't go to Nicaragua next spring is there are no faculty who are available to be trip leaders, Welage says.

Meanwhile, the plan to explore Africa began two years ago with a desire to expand the program to other continents. A delegation traveled to Africa last year in search of a country with political stability and a Jesuit presence. The delegation selected Ghana in West Africa for its history and culture. Students in Ghana will be exposed to the history of the slave trade to the Americas.

The new site is in Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana, with a population of one million people. Students who participate in the program will earn up to 15 credit hours while learning the Ghanaian language of Twi. Students will be immersed in the culture, live with their families and work 15 to 20 hours per week for agencies that serve the poor and marginalized in the city.

Welage says he expects students will return to Nicaragua the following year rather than Ghana. With funding available for three sites only, the program will likely alternate each year between Nicaragua and Ghana, unless it receives enough funding for four sites. That would be ideal, he says, with two sites operating each semester.

There are a few spots still available for the Over-the-Rhine and India sites for the fall. Applications for Ghana are now being accepted at the office of mission and ministry, 3729 Ledgewood Drive, and are due April 6. Interviews for Ghana will take place following the Easter break.

For more information, call Welage at 513 745-3768 or e-mail welage@xu.edu or Susan Namei at 513 745-3042, or e-mail namei@xu.edu.