The WILL Solidarity Projects are two semester, international community engaged learning experiences, thus far culminating in delegations to El Salvador (’07) and Nicaragua (’09 and ’11). These projects allow students to learn about the lives of – and to be in solidarity with – people who have been socially, economically,and/or politically marginalized. Students have an opportunity to study and then dialogue with native residents on
globalization and trade, post-war transition, the effects of religion on a population, and the impact of US foreign policy on Latin America. While learning about macro-level social, economic, political and religious issues from various perspectives, participants also have the opportunity to witness first hand the struggles and successes of people profoundly impacted by war and social policies. As a significant element of the projects, students are required to participate in critical reflections of the issues, both individually, through journal entries, and in group dialogue based on a model of praxis and reflection. The purpose of the projects is: academic/experiential education (immersion in culture, history, politics, and economics), campus activism (creating a grass-roots project) and transnational community engaged learning (expanding understanding, establishing communication and connection through in-country interaction). Participation in a Solidarity Project fills the WGS and WILL internship requirement and may also be used as a basis for an Independent Study.
The initial impetus for a WILL Solidarity Project was the highly successful Pedro Arrupe International Solidarity Project of Boston College and WILL students’ desire to create a transnational activism project. While utilizing many elements of the BC program, TCNJ’s WILL project has been adapted for a public institution. Kelly Sardon-Garrity, Director of the BC program was extremely helpful in answering questions and giving access to well established connections.
Students are required to raise all funds for this project through personal donations and odd jobs, in addition to raising funds to donate to organizations visited in the host countries (students in the delegation determine the non-profit organizations that will receive donation from the funds). The El Salvador delegation was hosted by Fundahmer (Foundation Brother Mercedes Ruiz), a non-profit organization that supports sustainable development in the grassroots communities of El Salvador (called CEBES); the Nicaragua delegation was hosted by the Center for Global Education, Augsberg College (http://www.augsburg.edu/global/) which has provided ( for 25 years) cross-cultural educational opportunities that fosters critical analysis of local and global conditions which supports personal and systemic change as a movement toward a more just and sustainable world. CGE has a permanent site in Managua, Nicaragua.