The weekend before Thanksgiving 2014, 12 University of Bridgeport students discovered how very much they are thankful for during an overnight stay in Heifer International’s Global Gateway program. Living for just 24 hours in the simulated “Global Villages” of Guatemala, Thailand, Zambia, and Appalachia, the students learned first-hand about hunger and poverty and the everyday challenges our world neighbors face. Jennifer Turner, Civic Engagement Coordinator in the Office of Campus Activities and Civic Engagement who arranged the trip, shares her reflections below.
“It was the greatest experience. When we arrived Friday night, we got a brief introduction to Heifer International and a great dinner. We started Saturday morning with farm chores. We had to feed all of the animals. Chores were followed by a Survival game – each person was given different resources and we had to trade with each other or the market in order to try to survive to the next round. This started a great discussion about allocation of resources, natural disasters, and global poverty.
For lunch we headed to the Global Village. We had lunch in “Tibet.” We had to start a fire to heat our stove. Lunch was ground barley cooked in yak milk. After lunch, we had another learning session about the distribution of people and resources throughout the world.
For the evening, it was back to the Global Village. We were staying in “Poland,” so we were assigned different roles within a Polish family. Some of our family members were injured; two were pregnant. I was assigned the role of wise elder and could not speak except to answer questions with a yes or no. We were given money and told we would need to purchase food for dinner and breakfast from the market. We had a very difficult time starting our fire in our stove, so it took a while to cook dinner. Dinner in Poland was half a cabbage, two potatoes, and two tomatoes. For 13 people! But we made it work and actually enjoyed our stew.
We didn’t have our phones, games, or reading materials so we spent most of the night doing reflection questions. The greatest struggle was that the closest bathroom was about a five minute walk away. It was not at all pleasant to have to make that walk at 3 a.m. in the snow. Sunday morning, we had more farm chores, including running some of the animals out to pasture. We also got to milk a goat!
Before leaving we shared our final reflections. It was really amazing to hear what all of the students got out of this experience. I definitely plan to make this an annual event.”