SAMPLE CALENDAR FOR TBB’S GAP YEAR PROGRAMS ABROAD
The service days in the above calendar provide sufficient time for students to learn about the issue first-hand, understand the methodology of the host NGO with which they work, and complete meaningful service for the host community. If the host NGO worked to improve the sustainability of agriculture, as is common in rural India, the students would learn through the fourteen service/seminar days as follows:
Day 4: Students meet with the host NGO and its leadership. Students receive an overview of the issue addressed by the host NGO and the philosophy behind the methodology it uses. Students receive a tour of the community and meet some of the people whom the host NGO assists. Students begin training in data collection and practice with the host NGO’s staff. Seminar includes a discussion of the host NGO’s model and methodology and a discussion of the global context of sustainable agriculture based on assigned readings. Students begin reading selections from The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and India of My Dreams by Mohandas K. Gandhi. These books provide insights into the contemporary industrial and sustainable agriculture systems in the US, and Gandhi’s vision of sustainable agricultural communities as the heart of an independent India, respectively. Students also begin a new section in their journal to capture their thoughts throughout the stay in this community. Students will write one evening reflection on each day of their stay in the host community.
Day 5, Days 8-11: Students begin each day with their homestay families, spending half of each day working on their farms. This provides students with a unique perspective on the techniques, successes, and struggles of farming families within the community. Students then spend each afternoon working with the NGO. Here, they are matched with members of the scientific team working to research the needs of the local community and test possible solutions. Students participate in social science data collection and mapping. They also work to support field trials of locally developed seed varieties and irrigation techniques, helping the scientists track the outcome of the experiments. The evenings include seminars to discuss the readings in relation to the student observations on the family farms and with the NGOs. During this time, students also begin planning and researching their multi-media pieces for the month. Collectively, their work will reflect their understanding of various sub-questions related to sustainable agriculture. Seminars and multi-media work are designed to push student thinking about how sustainable agriculture can affect the local community, the environment, and society as a whole. Additionally, sharing of student observations builds understanding of the challenges, successes, and limitations of the host NGO.
Days 9-11: Students work in the clinic maintained by the host NGO to provide services to those whose cases have progressed and who now require more intensive care. Students witness the challenges, successes, and limitations of the host NGO as it works to meet the needs of those who are ill. Seminars on these days include analysis of readings about the economy and culture of the host country. Students are challenged to build connections between the economic and cultural realities of the country and the approach to public health exhibited by the host NGO.
Day 15: Students visit another NGO working to forward sustainable agriculture in a neighboring community. They speak with their staff to understand their specific approach and to compare and contrast the two NGOs. The seminar includes discussion of the assigned readings and an effort to identify the primary assumptions behind each NGO. Students then compare and contrast those assumptions with their understanding of the economy and culture of the community to determine the effectiveness of the host NGO’s methodology.
Days 16-18, Day 22: Students continue their half day of work on their homestay families’ farms and half day of research with the NGO. Seminars during this period include discussions of the meaning of “truth” as defined by Gandhi, and an exploration of the global economics and politics of agriculture that create unsustainable practices. Creation of the multi-media pieces moves into the editing phase during these days.
Day 23: Students visit a local agricultural university. The visit includes lectures and meetings with agricultural professors and researchers, and a tour of the facilities and fields. The seminar will explore the assumptions behind the research efforts around agriculture in India. Additionally, students will compare those with the assumptions of Gandhi in India of My Dreams and the local NGO working toward sustainable agriculture. Ultimately, the students are challenged to identify a set of assumptions that define sustainable global agriculture.
Days 24-25: Students complete their service on their homestay families’ farms and with the NGO. The final seminar periods are utilized for culminating discussions and collaborative editing of multi-media pieces. Upon return to the city, multi-media pieces are posted to the TBB website for public and classroom use.