By Erin Fitzwilliams, Wayne Haviland and Dave Carl
Imagine spending the summer in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.
It could be the reality for several West Virginia University students this summer who join a service-learning trip with Amizade.
Amizade Global Service-Learning is a nonprofit organization that has been connecting communities with people from around the world for 18 years, according to Trey Goff, WVU service-learning coordinator.
“You actually see what life is like as a local Brazilian in Brazil, rather than any college student at a city campus anywhere around the world,” Goff said. “I think it’s a more personable view on the world around you rather than just studying abroad and seeing it from a third party. You’re actually talking to people, interacting with the local community and it’s a pretty cool organization.”
This summer, students will travel to Santarem, Brazil, which has a population of about 300,000, and the primary language is Portugese.
Paula Fitzgerald, professor in WVU’s marketing department, will be teaching the courses in Brazil this summer for students earning credit.
Fitzgerald says this trip will offer credits for Intro to Marketing, Social Marketing and International Studies courses. In Brazil, the students will market a social campaign decided by the class, which could include health promotion, sexual health promotion, HIV prevention or nutrition promotion.
Fitzgerald said that in some communities in Brazil, campaigns have made a difference in the lifestyles of the natives in impoverished areas.
“Taking malnutrition from 39 percent to two percent is a huge impact in human welfare,” she said. “We’re making an impact on people’s lives.”
Nathan Darity, Amizade’s Brazil site director, said service trips are designed around each location’s specific needs.
“There’s something about spending time learning the culture of where you want to end up and building relationships where you want to end up. It’s indescribably important,” he said.
Darity has served as the site director for Brazil since 2009.
“Because of the fact I’m not Brazilian, I’m surrounding myself with the right team that will integrate me into the community. I’m bringing in as many people as I could,” he said. “I’ve loved Brazil since I was six.”
Fitzgerald said the learning part of the trip will be based around marketing and social campaigns; the service portion of the trip varies in what the community wants. In the past, Fitzgerald said they’ve taught English at the elementary schools.
“Brazilians go to school in the morning or afternoon and we would teach them in the morning and play with them. It was always really fun,” she said.
The students can also help with manual labor for building libraries, clean water systems, or whatever the community needs.
She said it’s also a culturally enriching trip that will allow students to explore Brazil on their own.
“It’s supervision with freedom. Someone would take care of you if you’re sick, or you have to go to get your luggage,” she said. “It’s a balance of support. You can wander off and check things out without someone hovering. That’s what my students experience, but when my daughter went, she found there was someone there when she needed it.”
Applications for the trip will be accepted at the Office of International Programs until April 20. The trip to Brazil is July 21 to August 12, 2012. It is open to all WVU students and will cost at least $2,000.