Saturday, June 5, 2010

This year for the first time, our students will be doing service work directly through a project run by a non-governmental organization that I helped to found in 2007, and which has helped to run the summer program each of the past two years. The group is now operating two human rights and access-to-justice centers in two Cochabamba neighborhoods. The project aims to teach barrio residents about human rights, provides counseling and legal services, offers training in non-violent conflict resolution, and helps to create new understanding and opportunities in the barrios.

The project will be the site of our students' community service and anthropological research this summer. Students will be assigned to one of the two barrio sites, and will work with groups of men, women and children to design activities, prepare materials, and help lead workshops and trainings. At the same, the students themselves will learn alongside barrio residents about the nature of human rights and HR defense. Some students may work to develop curricula for teaching about HR in schools; others will help the trainers work with kids to discover the importance of non-violence through, somewhat paradoxically, martial arts; others will work with women's groups to help develop new income-generating opportunities.

Unlike past years, the students this year will work directly through an established an ongoing project. Whereas previously we developed stand-alone projects in which students engaged, this year the students will work with an established and ongoing project, which will give their work more lasting value and provide a framework within which they can learn about Bolivia, human rights, and so on. I expect it to be a very productive collaboration.

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