Fanshawe students have life-changing experience in Costa Rica
Many travel to tropical destinations for rest and relaxation during the Canadian winter months. But each year since 2008, a group of Fanshawe students have headed south for entirely different reasons.
In February, students interviewed and hand-picked from the child and youth worker program, early childhood education, practical nursing and graphic design headed to Costa Rica for a month-long excursion to work with elementary school children who have been affected by a range of social issues. The Fanshawe students were accompanied by Margot Sippel, professor in the School of Human Services, Janice Elliott, professor in the School of Nursing, and Shelley Masse, coordinator for the practical nursing program.
"The issues ranged from children who live in extreme poverty to those who may have suffered from abandonment, bullying, physical violence, sexual abuse, anger problems, or parents who have an addiction to drugs or alcohol," says Sippel, one of the organizers of the Costa Rica program. "Our students worked in inter-professional teams to help these kids with intensive therapeutic treatment."
One project the students worked on was thanks to a Fanshawe Research grant. "We were able to examine the Costa Rican children’s perception of a healthy lifestyle," Sippel says. "We gave the kids disposable cameras and asked them to take photos with examples of healthy lifestyles and interviewed them about the pictures they took."
This was also the first year students from the graphic design program joined the trip. "The students and Lee-Ann Sandford, their program coordinator, joined us for 10 days as part of a pilot to get the School of Design involved in an international project," Sippel says. "And they created tremendous bonds with the children through art."
Sippel says the rewards of the program are seeing positive changes in the Costa Rican children. "Our students have done a wonderful job and we see changes in the children that stay over the long-term," she says. "The staff at the school is really appreciative of our efforts since they don’t have the resources for the kind of intensive therapeutic work that we do." |
Sippel also believes the program challenges the Fanshawe students in a new way. "Our students say this is a life-changing experience and many of them now want to work with kids in another culture," she says. "Working in a new environment helps the students to broaden their skill base and their awareness of what they’re capable of."
Above - Margo Sippel (second from right) with staff from an elementary school in Costa Rica proudly wearing I Heart Fanshawe t-shirts.
Below - Fanshawe student volunteers pose with a "Thank You" card from their Costa Rican students