Campus News Georgia Impact

Giving back: Students’ international experiences benefit Georgia communities

UGA students are using their study-abroad experiences in developing countries to give back to the Athens community.

Seven UGA students received Community Engagement Fellowships this year from the Office of International Public Service and Outreach. The awards helped pay for expenses related to study-abroad programs in developing countries, requiring each student to develop a service project related to his or her overseas experience after returning to campus.

The 2005 fellowship recipients and their study-abroad destinations are: Jennifer Adams, South Africa; Yameka Anderson, Mexico; Linda White Chastain, India; Sallie Jane Fox, Ecuador; Christina Hannon, South Africa; Leah Kapa, Ukraine; and Benjamin Liverman, Ghana.

“This fellowship program gives students an opportunity to experience life in developing countries and connect classroom experience to real-world development challenges,” says Art ­Dunning, vice president for public service and outreach.

Throughout the summer and fall semesters, students have worked on a variety of projects with Athens-area partners, including local schools and nonprofit organizations.

Kapa, a psychology and advertising major, found that even the poverty she has seen in North Georgia did not prepare her for the sight of homeless children in the Ukraine. She now is drawing on her research on the Ukrainian homeless problem to help implement parenting workshops for the homeless in Athens.

“I am currently working with the College of Family and Consumer Sciences to collect and alter existing parenting education curriculum for my project with the Athens Area Homeless Shelter,” says Kapa, who also plans to recruit child and family development graduate students as volunteers for the project.

Courtney Davis, AAHS director, says she was pleased that Kapa chose to work with the organization on her project.

“I can imagine that parenting in a shelter environment is incredibly stressful and overwhelming,” Davis says. “Any opportunity that our residents may have to develop their skills in ­managing this stress will be wonderful.”

Hannon and Adams, graduate students in forest resources, are sharing their knowledge of conservation biology with elementary school students in South Africa and Athens. During a stay in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, the two visited rural classrooms and talked about wildlife habitats in Africa and the U.S. Last month they gave similar talks at a local elementary school and collected books and supplies to send back to South African schools.

The Office of International Public Service and Outreach hosted a workshop and reception for the fellowship recipients last month.

The students presented the outcomes of their service projects and discussed their experiences with faculty and community partners.