Social work students document eye-opening experience

3/8/2007 8:00:00 AM

Three University students led a team of Virginia City and Bishop Manogue High School students on a two-week cultural exchange trip to Escuinapa, Mexico as part of the 2007 Global Voice youth exchange program. While there, the students worked in low-income schools and villages.

As part of the experience team members and students were given digital cameras to document their experiences and what they learned on the trip and how the work affected them. The photographs taken followed the "photovoice" technique and were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the trip's goals to increase the students' personal and political awareness.

The results of the digital photography project is an exhibit titled "Youth and Service: A Photo Fundraiser" on display at the Never Ender Gallery located at 518 W. 2nd Street in Reno from March 10 through April 14.

An opening reception will take place Saturday, March 10, at 7 p.m. Youth participants and University students will share their thoughts and experiences with audience members. Photos will be available for purchase and a raffle will be held. All proceeds from the photo fundraiser will be donated to Global Voice 2008 and the Mexican communities of Escuinapa.

The University students participating in Global voice and pursuing master's degrees in social work are Jennifer McDuffee,Matt Lauzon and Kristin Nagel.

Global Voice team leader McDuffee said, "The purpose of the project was to record students' experiences of the Global Voice project while in Mexico, express their understanding of topics of importance to their community and that of the communities of Mexico, expand their sense of self, develop their thoughts on how to create change and take control of how their lives and the lives of others are portrayed."

McDuffee added, "The 'photovoice' study will contribute to the social work profession's knowledge of photography as a tool for working with adolescents and the programs they serve, locally and globally."

Global Voice participants worked in a school in El Palmito, a small agricultural village about an hour-and-a-half south of Mazatlan. The team also worked in the communities of Escuinapa such as Celaya, Palmito and Teacapan.

While in Escuinapa, Global Voice participants organized a community clean-up day; taught American cooking and English classes; wrote, rehearsed and produced a play in Spanish called "The Stinky Cheese Man;" made eight tables for the students to sit on during lunch; fixed and made playground games like tetherball, merry-go-round, flying maypole; built a climbing structure made of used tires; and painted signs on the playground.

"The mission of Global Voice is to create cross-cultural communication among youth, adults and countries," said Deborah Loesch-Griffin, Global Voice founder and College of Health and Human Sciences faculty member. "It is the one thing students can do to learn about differences and build their experiences based upon service in new cultures. This ethic of service – at home and abroad –is how we build a world that works for all."

Global Voice is part of Community Chest, Inc., a private non-profit organization founded in 1991 in Virginia City. Global Voice was established in 2003 and has previously visited Northern Ireland and Mexico. The organization is seeking funding, sponsorships and donations from members of the community to continue the program and engage the citizens of northern Nevada to make their community and the world a better place.

"Deborah has been an inspiration to work with," McDuffee said. "Her drive, energy and enthusiasm to make the world a better place, locally and globally, is infectious. It is amazing to see high school students feeling empowered to make their own community a better place, based off of the service learning experiences they've had in an international setting."

Deborah Loesch-Griffin  and her husband, Shaun Griffin will receive the 2007 Global Citizen Award from the Northern Nevada International Center as a result of her work with Global Voice. The event takes place March 23 at the Eldorado Hotel/Casino. She is currently in the final stages of editing her book, "Spirit in Action: One Woman's View of Community-Building in Frontier America," and believes that through art and activism the cultures and the spirits of many nations can come together under a common understanding: a world that works for all.

She is also co-sponsor of the evaluation center within the College of Health and Human Sciences at the University.


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