by Victoria Thompson
Hey, it’s Victoria, and my house is currently a freezing 53 degrees. I know it is only the beginning of October, but I am seriously not looking forward to the subarctic temperatures this winter. Almost exactly two years ago, I had this “hatred of the upcoming cold” feeling. I decided to look up warm places on Pinterest, then I searched Iowa State Study Abroads, and that was when I found the ISU Honors Service-Learning Trip to Belize. I applied for the week-long service trip on a whim. Being a part of the service trip became my most memorable experience from freshman year.
Over the course of 2013 Spring Semester, myself and 15 other Iowa State students learned about Belize’s history and culture in addition to our assigned service project. The lovely Laurie Law was our professor and she helped us to understand not only the meaning of service-learning, but also the purpose. Service learning is different than community service because service-learning expands on community service by enabling students to explore and examine the needs of others before providing service. The goal of service-learning is to ensure that the service is meaningful and will actually meet the needs of those being served.
Our service project was building solar latrines in the rural village of Blue Creek in Southern Belize. Before the solar latrines were built, people of the community were using outhouses that overflowed every time it rained. Much of this waste ended up contaminating water and causing disease. The solar latrines provided a way for the waste to be converted into fertilizer. The waste flows into a concrete box where the sun shines on a black-painted lid. Once the box is filled with waste and the sun adequately dries it, the waste can be removed and be buried deep into the ground. Planting crops or fruit trees over the buried waste results in higher crop yields. (read more about solar latrine science here: http://www.sustainableharvest.org/techniques/eco-toilets)
Mixing concrete by hand and building the latrines with no power tools in 90+ degrees was hot and hard. However, I wish I was back in Belize working in the heat every time I get cold. The service-learning project was such an amazing experience and I hope everyone gets a chance to travel abroad during their lifetime. If you are interested in going on the Honors Service Trip this upcoming spring break, here is the link: http://isuabroad.iastate.edu/index.cfm?FuseAction=Programs.ViewProgram&Program_ID=11871. Maybe I will procrastinate studying biochem some more and start looking up more Iowa State Study Abroad opportunities…