Take a moment to think about what you did today. What did you learn? What surprised you? What was the highest point in your day? What was the lowest?
These were the questions that 12 Temple students were asked to consider during an evening reflection period each night while in Jamaica last month.
The group was on the island for a week to develop an eco-friendly trash disposal system at the White Horses Primary School as part of the university’s Service Immersion Program. They built an incinerator, donated new trash bins and wrote a song to teach students and teachers how to use the new system. Each night, after a day of demanding physical work, the group met to share both high and low points of their day.
Such daily reflection is a central component of the service immersion experience, says Director of Student Activities Gina D’Annunzio, who heads the program and led the group on the trip to Jamaica. The sessions offer each student an opportunity to process new experiences and consider how they have changed their perspective. Some nights the group spent up to two hours sharing their thoughts, she said.
“It took a while for people to come to grips with the fact that 5-year-old students in Jamaica would take a taxi by themselves to school,” D’Annunzio said. Other students shared how they felt seeing a young child crying because he did not have enough money to buy lunch, she said.
Sponsored by the Office of Student Activities, Temple’s Service Immersion Program undertakes four service projects each year, with groups of 11-13 students involved in each. This year, the program operated in Mission, South Dakota; El Paso, Texas; Yallahs, Jamaica; and at home in Philadelphia.
Each project focuses on a different theme — the theme for the Jamaica trip was “sustainable development” — that aims to actively engage students in meaningful experiences that foster cultural awareness, global understanding and social responsibility.
Rising senior Evetha Francois said that sharing personal stories — sometimes late into the evening — also brought her closer to her travel companions.
“We got to know each other on such a deep level during those late hours and bonded in a way that will connect us for life,” she said.
For senior David Kalinoski, the evening reflections helped cement the trip as one of the highlights of his college career.
“I would do it all again in a heartbeat,” he said. “I still live Jamaica in my mind everyday and will not forget a thing.”