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Belize Service-Learning Trip Offers Interfaith Experience

CONWAY, Ark. (June 7, 2018) – Seven Hendrix College students and three recent graduates traveled to Belize May 13-19 for a cross-cultural service-learning experience. The trip to the Collet neighborhood of Belize City focused on serving the children of the Muslim Community Primary School while fostering a cooperative spirit in an interfaith context.

Working under the direction of a two-person Belizean construction crew, the group from Hendrix helped the Muslim Primary School begin building a pavilion so the children—all of whom must eat their lunches outside—will have a covered place to eat, out of the sun and protected from the rain. Some Hendrix group members also taught lessons in the school’s lower grades, and those who did not teach in the classroom joined in on the fun during recess. In addition to interacting directly with the children, participants spoke with teachers from other schools, representatives from the Ministry of Education, and leaders of various nonprofit initiatives.

Roshaneh Ali ’19, Jordan Carl ’20, Miranda Donakey ’18, Emma Gimenez ’20, Marlee Hoggard ’21, Grishma Patel ’19, Lena Pham ’18, Giorgy Sarishvili ’18, John Tran ’19, and Jordan Young ’20 engaged in these experiences alongside one Hendrix staff member, Gwen Stockwell, director of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and International Student Services; and one faculty member, Dr. Peg Falls-Corbitt, Virginia A. McCormick Pittman Distinguished Professor of Philosophy. Falls-Corbitt commended their hard work, cooperation, and willingness to take on new tasks, from building wooden molds for concrete columns to leading creative language arts lessons for children.

“Most of all, I am pleased with how genuinely and deeply the students connected with the people they met and worked alongside, from the school children to the school staff, from construction crew leaders to the imam, from our van driver for the week to the representatives of the Ministry of Education,” she said.

Falls-Corbitt added that the Hendrix students on the trip became involved in more than simply performing needed tasks. “They really opened themselves up to hearing and seeing from their new Belizean friends’ point of view, and they shared of themselves, from deep down in themselves, not just as helpers on a project. Our wonderful hosts and new Belizean friends did likewise for us,” she said. “It’s this opportunity for mutual sharing across boundaries of country, class, race, and religion that is the true long-term benefit of the service experience.”

For participant Jordan Young, the experience of working side by side with the innovative Belizean crew to build a safe space for students was emotionally and spiritually invigorating.

“We mindfully experienced first-hand what honest, humanistic service felt like, and learned a great deal about the vibrant culture of Belize City,” he said. “Ultimately, we gained a deeply personal understanding of the humanity that exists between all of us, despite systematically imposed barriers that look to separate us.”

Led by the Hendrix Interfaith Initiative in conjunction with Peacework, a nonprofit focused on sustainable development, this trip appealed to students interested in building relationships with people of different traditions, whether religious or not. Through their shared activities, the group explored how a community of diverse religious, spiritual, and philosophical commitments can work together for the betterment of the world.

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit