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USF and Pachamama: A Thriving Partnership Based on Service Learning

May 31, 2008 | By The Pachamama Alliance

Pachamama’s volunteer program has grown, matured and deepened over the past year. Since last fall we have had contact with several Bay Area colleges and high schools to recruit young people who are inspired to contribute their time, skills and passion in service of our work in service of Pachamama’s work and vision while simultaneously gaining valuable experience. The staff Volunteer Coordinator, Eve Libertone, and long time volunteer, Adriana Farkouh, have been building a relationship with the University of San Francisco (USF) staff and professors which has become a fruitful and inspiring one.
Early this year Eve attended a service-learning seminar at USF to learn more about how to become a recognized community partner on their campus. Service-learning is the integration of meaningful service experiences into college level courses with the intention to enhance student learning in a larger community context while providing valuable service to an organization. All students attending USF are required to complete a service-learning class to graduate. The USF Office of Service Learning and Community Action (OSLCA) “promotes the infusion of the service-learning ethic into all levels of the university so that students are inspired and equipped to fashion a more just and humane world”.

As a result of participating in this seminar and through our ongoing outreach to professors, The Pachamama Alliance is now a recognized and recommended community partner for professors to collaborate with to provide for service-learning projects to their students. The students pick from a list of organizations to work with, usually local nonprofits, providing projects which are approved by the professor and integrate with what they are learning in the class.

This semester we hosted 12 service learners from USF. Some provided office assistance to staff working on fundraising, marketing and administrative support. Others worked on a plan to “green” the office, conducting research and providing valuable suggestions for us to become a green certified organization. Another team worked with Eve to increase visibility and awareness of the work The Pachamama Alliance is engaged in on campus, assisted at our Monthly Gatherings in March and April in San Francisco and marketed and supported our first Symposium at USF hosted and sponsored by student environmental and social justice groups. Another student worked on a Power Point presentation to support an affiliated project called Jungle Mamas which is bringing needed health care education to Achuar communities.

All the students had a great experience and our staff really enjoyed working with them. It was clear they learned a great deal and were very inspired about our mission and work during their presentations to fellow classmates and professors. Many students want to continue volunteering with us and one will start a summer long internship. We are very excited to have a new group of students working with us this summer on a research project to identify organizations we want to pursue collaborations with in the social justice, environmental and spiritual growth movement.