Returning to roots through service

By Emily Klingman

For students going on service trips abroad, giving back to the global community is just as important as the continuation of their own individual story. For sophomore finance major Victoria Jacoby, her decision to travel to Morocco last spring and now her upcoming trip to Thailand is deeply intertwined with her own life story.

“Personally, I went with the intention of personal growth,” she said. “I was adopted at six months old from China, and I came from an orphanage. So I wanted to see with my own eyes the environment there and try to make a difference.”

The trip has had a lasting impact on her daily life back home. It taught her a simple and important life lesson: Be thankful for the little things in life.

“Because of the countless opportunities that we are given day to day, I try to extend my gratitude to others and advocate individuals to get the study-abroad experience and be exposed to real-world issues going on,” Jacoby said.

“I enjoyed making new friendships,” she said. “I went on the trip with the intention of not knowing anyone; I was the youngest on the trip, but it was really a great dynamic to have so many different people on a trip with the same goal of making a difference. We may differ in age, academic school year, socially, etc., but we all got very close within the short amount of time because a service trip that intense surfaces very emotional feelings that we all connected with.”

After hearing about the trip, she was intrigued because it sounded so exotic and interesting.

“I immediately called my parents about it, and, for a lack of better words, they were hesitant because of financials and various factors: distance, timing of the trip, to save money, etc. They were just coming from a practical perspective,” said Jacoby. “I began to think deeply of a reason to go because it was a relevant question.”

Jacoby’s contemplation led to her deciding it was important for her to learn about where she came from.

“I wanted to pursue the trip to Thailand because I realized that I was going to be 20 years old, an age where I think I am ready to go see my birth country,” she said.

Even though she wasn’t adopted from Thailand, she wanted to learn more about the region and its Asian culture since she was adopted at a young age.

“I have never had the desire to find my birth parents,” she said. “Because I was adopted so young, my parents are my parents to me. However, I felt it was time to open up and give it a chance. I wanted to give myself the chance to see and immerse myself in the culture, and try to make a difference.”

For the upcoming trip, the plan is to fill the needs of an orphanage. Jacoby explained that in Morocco, the Bayti orphanage needed “labor intensive beautification on their grounds through garden work, painting classrooms and raising money through charity.” According to her, the orphanage in Thailand needs chicken coups for food and assistance in educating the children in English.

Assistant Director of the Center for International Education Kim Algeo said the group officially plans on visiting an orphanage just outside the city of Bangkok, where they will build the chicken coups and teach the children how to care for the eggs while working alongside local university students.

Throughout the trip, they will be touring the surrounding area and learning about Thailand. According to Algeo, some of their cultural experiences include “visiting all the beautiful golden temples in Bangkok, as well as partaking in a traditional Thai cooking class.”

This trip to Thailand will be the first service trip to Asia for Rider. Algeo said the goal is to offer service projects in Africa, Asia and South America, in addition to possibly Europe or the Pacific Islands.

The decision to go to Thailand for the next service trip was Algeo’s idea, because of her own experiences with teaching English in Thailand in 2006.

“It changed my whole life,” she said. “I worked closely with our study-abroad provider to customize this trip specifically for Rider students so they could have a life-changing experience as well.”

Jacoby believes that students should go on these kinds of service trips, if not for giving back to the world community, for the experience and exposure to other cultures.

“Service is the most rewarding feeling,” she said. “The gratitude I felt when I came back from Morocco was huge.”

Future Service Learning Projects: There is still room for our service trip to Peru in May, 2017. Students should email Kim Algeo at kalgeo@rider.edu for more information on future service projects.Service Learning Projects for 2018 will be announced in February, but Rider will definitely be returning to Morocco. 

 

Published in the 10/26/16 edition.

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