It is 9:00 am and SpARC is starting. Four women stand at the front of the room – Xinyu Zhan, Su Myat Thu, “Lexis” Xi Wang, and Eia Gardner. They have traveled abroad to Ghana and Burma, and home to China and California, working on public service projects funded by the Hubert Scholars Program. They are busy before the presentation working with the computer – one of their number, Danli Lan, is studying abroad at Oxford this semester and is hoping to Skype in. Wifi and Skype aren’t cooperating though, and the presentation starts without her.
A quick overview of the Hubert Scholarship is given. It is funded by an Agnes Scott alum who wants to foster public service in Agnes Scott students. Students must submit a design and proposal for a project aimed at helping a community anywhere in the world with a problem. The design must include at least 200 service hours and be supplemented with academic readings and writings under an ASC adviser.
Xinyu Zhan traveled to Ghana for her project. She worked with hotels in order to help kids in orphanages. How? With soap! She knew that sanitation was a big problem, and she also knew that hotels throw away tons of soap, even if it was only used once. Zhan set up a program that collected this lightly-used soap from hotels and sanitized and repackaged it before sending it on to orphanages. Best of all, she helped create a partnership between that two that lasted even after she left.
Su Myat Thu went to Burma and also worked with children, but in this case she focused on schooling. She worked at a school that teaches children with a range of disabilities, from blindness and deafness to learning disabilities. In her readings she studied different teaching techniques, and she helped implement them at the school.
Xi Wang went home, to China. In 2008 Wenchuan was hit by a devastating earthquake, made all the worse by an epidemic of faulty construction in schools. Hundreds of children died when they were trapped by collapsing school buildings. Wang was home when the earthquake hit; you could hear the emotion in her voice as she talked about feeling the world shake and being scared for her family. For her project, she wanted to do something to help earthquake victims, especially the children, so she went to work at a school where survivors had been temporarily relocated until new schools could be built. This school was also a school for children with disabilities – survivors had been put there because many were amputees – but by now they have all moved back home, so Wang worked with the children that remained.
Eia Gardner also went home to work with schools in her community, located in Oakland, California. She applied for the scholarship so she could get funding for a program she’s been working on for several years: the Queens Project. For a month during the summer, 15-20 girls from Gardner’s home middle school come together to connect with mentors and go to workshops on writing, sex ed, developmental classes, and more. Gardner began this program because she saw that there was a disconnect between teachers and students at the school, and that for many of the girls graduating middle school was the end of their education. She wanted to show them what they could do and what the possibilities were by connecting them with mentors and teaching them through this program.
Danli Lan gave her presentation from Oxford – through YouTube! She went to Bangladesh and worked with a nonprofit that gives women microloans to start their own businesses. You can see her presentation here: