When you first arrive at Lakeside, it’s easy to become fascinated by the sprawling campus, state of the art technology, and robust curriculum that the school has to offer. But perhaps the most remarkable thing that sets Lakeside apart from the rest is Global Service Learning (GSL). According to the Lakeside website, GSL “combines learning, service, and cultural immersion, developing students’ understanding of and respect for different countries and cultures, as well as the common issues that face us globally.”
To put it simply, you go to a country, do service, and have a blast along the way. At a recent assembly, the 2020 GSL locations (not including school-year GSL) were finally announced—China, Fiji, Ecuador, Peru, Morocco, and Cambodia. This range of new options left many students wondering about the GSL location process: how the locations are chosen, why we return to past sites, etc. I spoke to Ms. Devine, the Associate Director of Global Programs about the process.
The first thing we discussed were the four new locations, three of which are new sites within previously-visited countries—in Ecuador, Peru, and Morocco— and one location that is entirely new—in Cambodia. In the past, the Ecuador trip has stayed in villages in the mountains, but this summer, GSL will be visiting a community closer to the Amazonian areas of the country. In Peru, this year’s trip will spend the entire time in a town higher up in the Andes that has been visited but not stayed in as extensively. The Moroccan trip location is close to the previous sites but is still based in a completely new community, meaning the student experience will be entirely new in comparison to past trips.
Changing locations within a country or returning to past countries can happen for a variety of reasons. Ms. Devine explained that often the relationships last for about three to five years. “We loved the Thailand trip for example, but the service project the students had been working on, building the bathrooms, was completed,” she explained. “The partner asked for a break to give the community some time to reevaluate and think about the next project.” In the meantime, Lakeside still wanted a Southeast Asia option, and thus the Cambodia trip was born.
When selecting these new locations, Ms. Devine mentioned that it all comes down to networking—“Whether it’s at conferences or through people who lead GSL trips or even connections that I had from my life prior to Lakeside.”
The Cambodia trip is a perfect example of this. After the Thailand community wanted a break after six years of hosting, the suggestion of Cambodia was made by a current GSL trip leader. “He already knew what Lakeside was looking for and had spent some time in the area,” she told me, “so when I was chatting with him, he mentioned his connection to a great partner in Cambodia and put us in touch.”
The China location is more remarkable story. Before her time here at Lakeside, Ms. Devine helped run a program in China for Middlebury College and was invited to visit a rural village by a Tibetan Middlebury alum. “He showed me around the community and what homestays could be like, but the timing just wasn’t right, so we weren’t able to set anything up for the program. But ten years later, I’m working at Lakeside and while we were looking at developing a new China site, I thought of him,” she explained. They got in touch and the rest is history!
The new Morocco site is yet another result of Ms. Devine’s wide array of connections: “About four years ago,” she told me, “I was at a conference and happened to talk to a woman who was living in Marrakech and starting a travel organization with a focus on Morroccan youth empowerment. We had some really great conversations and ended up staying in touch. As her company started growing and hosting other visiting school groups and the opportunity came up for us to have another Morocco trip, I knew she was the person to talk to and we set it up from there!”
The overarching concept Ms. Devine keeps in mind when choosing new locations is global diversity. “When we’re looking at the summer program, we like to have a wide [geographic] spread of locations,” she explained, describing the importance of a good distribution of sites so that students have a variety of options to choose from. So whether you spend next summer in a village in Africa, in a community high in the mountains of the Andes, or a town in the tropics of south-east Asia, it’s thanks to Ms. Devine that GSL is as brilliantly robust as it is.