Thursday, February 26, 2009

Anecdotes Tell the Story of the Impact of Spanish Community Service Learning

Resources was the topic this week in my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course. For the reflective essay, students had to write a fundraising letter for their community partner organization.

Students wrote great, convincing letters. The most effective letters opened with anecdotes. I want to share a couple of them here. Not only are they models of how to open a fundraising letter and hook the reader. They are also examples of why Spanish community service learning is such a powerful learning experience.

Anecdote #1

Exactly one week ago we received an unexpected phone call that left us all in disbelief. A volunteer had answered the call first, and within seconds of her trying to calm down the person on the other line with “Calme, todo estará bien” (“Calm down, everything will be okay”) we instantly knew something was not right. Our Spanish co-director took the call, a look of genuine concern and determination never leaving her face. We soon learned that the woman’s daughter, whom was both deaf and mute, was experiencing a psychological breakdown and needed to be admitted to a hospital immediately. The woman knew very little English and would need a Spanish translator, while her daughter would need a Sign interpreter. They were also in need of transportation and the phone number for the nearest hospital. This is why we exist. We are the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC) dedicated to serving the refugee and immigrant population in the Urbana-Champaign and surrounding areas.

Anectdote #2
Ramona Garcia sat alone in front of Booker T. Washington Grade School the other afternoon for two hours on the front steps, unnoticed. At five o’clock her father came to pick her up and rushed to her side. He apologized for not being able to get her right away, tried to explain that he has to work so that he can make money for the family, but his heart broke slowly as he witnessed her trying to hide her eyes as she fought back the tears that were welling up inside them. Most days her mother or aunt is able to pick her up but this is not the first time she was left alone waiting, hoping for someone to take her home and probably won’t be the last. Unfortunately, Ramona is not the only student in Mrs. Rodriguez’s kindergarten class that this has happened to. Booker T. Washington has petitioned for increased funding to finance an after school program for grades K through 5 to provide a safe after school environment for the children of those who are unable to take off work to pick them up. But, they have not seen any increased finances. In fact, there has even been talk of cutting teachers’ salaries in order to maintain current programs.

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