Service learning is a great way to get youth to expand knowledge, not only of the projects and communities they are being of service to but also of themselves as emerging leaders.  Oftentimes we enter into situations where we are assisting others thinking we are the vessel that is giving and the other receiving, however that is furthest from the truth. Knowledge is like the water cycle, there is a constant flow and when you think it is all over, it comes back around again.  It always seems that whatever you learned through service comes back to remind you and teach you again even after you have moved on, it is a silent force that doesn’t just impact you for the time period you are actively aware and engaged.

I want to highlight Alternative Spring Break – Ghana – Long Beach, a project birthed out of the intention of university students experiencing other countries from a perspective of developing a symbiotic relationship of the host (Ghana) and visiting country.  Dr. Beverly Booker initially started the program on the campus of California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a sister CSU. The innovative aspect of ASB Ghana LB at CSULB came shortly after the 2012 trip with the graduate students and Dr. Booker deciding to form an ASB Ghana LB Executive Team on the campus that would be collaboratively led by the students and faculty facilitator.  Graduate and some undergraduate students take part in every aspect of the trip from tour design with the tour companies, service site collaboration, fundraising, course instruction, and publicity, which ultimately impacts their levels of professional development as leaders and change agents.

The program has a coursework component at CSULB prior to students traveling to Ghana.  In this course, students learn about the Ghanaian economy and adverse impacts of capitalism, issues around White supremacy after being a colonized nation on all aspects of life, Pan-Africanism, diversity of languages and social justice issues within the country that are also experienced in the U.S.. This component allows students to see themselves not just as a group going to help, but also illuminates cultural assets and strengths of Ghana, the similarities and mutual interests and challenges.  

Approaching service learning from a collaborative approach, the ASB Ghana Executive Team sends the service sites information on the majors, talents, and skills of participants coming to Ghana.  The process enables the sites of BASICS International and Wesley Methodist School to request the service activities and workshops that they need.  Additionally, as a part of this mutual working relationship the question is asked of the host country organizations,: “What do YOU need?”

 Wesley Methodist School in Pram Pram knew it was a library and not in the sense that we would conceive it, as an actual structure but as its original intent from the first libraries, which is a resource.   Asking the simple yet integral question, the Collaborative Library Literacy Project was collaboratively created.

The simple asking of what is needed and understanding of the perspective and what the execution of the need looks like is essential, because otherwise you’d be imposing and forcing others to conform to your ideal.  Also for the students and faculty facilitator at CSULB they are expanding their creativity and worldview. Oftentimes we only see a vision in one way instead of allowing creativity to demonstrate diverse possibilities. This project allows creativity to flow for the partners involved and that will forever be instilled and utilized by all involved. This is a life skill with no comparison.

ASB Ghana– Long Beach is now accepting donations of books and other education related items. To learn more, connect and donate with ASB Ghana LB Service learning project, please contact:   at beverly.booker@csulb.edu

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