Students recount experience of Global Service

PUHI — After spending a week in San Carlos, Costa Rica, Dylan Wehrly, a Kaua‘i Community College student, said there are similarities to Kaua‘i, but there are a lot of differences.

Wehrly is one of three KCC students selected as recipients of the Wofford Scholarship, the other two recipients being Amber Harder, who traveled to Xian, China during the KCC spring break; and Katrina Martinez, who has yet to decide on where she will go.

The three students are from an inaugural group of eight  fellowship recipients from the University of Hawai‘i Community Colleges, said Carol Stax Brown, president of Community Colleges for International Development, a coalition of colleges from across the country and Japan.

The CCID, in partnership with Cross Cultural Solutions, made the announcement of the first round of recipients of the Harris T. Wofford Global Service Fellowships in January, but Brian Yamamoto, a coordinating instructor at KCC, felt it was better to wait until the students returned from their volunteering trips before releasing details of the scholarship.

Wehrly traveled to Costa Rica through the Honda International Travel Fund, spending a week learning about the country as well as volunteering at a school where a lot of the student population came from broken homes.

“The official language in Quesada is Spanish with a lot of slang,” Wehrly said. “No English is spoken and I know a little Spanish, but there was an incident where it took me three hours to find a taxi. It was a good learning experience.”

He said there were three students from California and one from Canada who were volunteering with him, but no one in the day care could speak English.

“I’m not used to dealing with kids,” Wehrly said. “To deal with kids in a different language is a whole different experience.”

He said he remembers one child who was a troublemaker and always getting time-outs.

“He was so cute,” Wehrly said, despite the mischevious antics. “He was always getting into trouble, punching the other kids and getting time-outs, but he was just so cute.”

He said traveling around Quesada, he got to experience a coffee tour where he witnessed how hard people work for so little money.

“Overall, it was a good experience,” he said. “The road to Quesada is like taking a two-hour ride on the road to Koke‘e and you get to experience reckless driving.”

Harder said during her tour of China, her volunteering was split between an orphanage and teaching English at a university.

“We spent two hours each day volunteering, but had a lot of time to learn the culture,” Harder said. “We got to learn about cooking, music, calligraphy and history.”

She said when she got there, she was the only student from KCC. Her trip was funded through the Vinny Itoga fund; Itoga is an international traveler who works in the Chancellor’s Office.

Yamamoto said the students were selected through their response to a campus advertisement and being able to fulfill the deadline requirements for the Wofford Scholarship.

Martinez, who received an open extension for her travel, said she is interested in traveling to Tanzania. Her interest piqued after she saw how they work with water.

Yamamoto said with this inaugural group of students, KCC is firmly committed to global internships and the college is looking into novel ways to do funding.

He also coordinates the number of exchange student programs KCC shares with other schools in Japan and Okinawa; this program joins the avenues that offer students an opportunity to experience life outside of Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i.

“These students get to see things they would otherwise never know,” Yamamoto said.

The CCID and CCS partnership  and the Harris T. Wofford Global Service Fellowship offers individuals the unique opportunity to participate in an international volunteer program for one to 12 weeks in countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Canada.

The partnership between CCID and CCS underscores both organizations’ missions of enabling a more diverse population the opportunity to engage as global citizens, a release from CCID states.

The University of Hawai‘i Community Colleges was one of just six colleges selected to participate in the program.

CCID anticipates awarding up to 100 Global Service Fellowships for 2012.

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