Stetson Students Participate in Internship with AIR Guatemala

 By Camila Morales Hernandez, ’20

(l-r) Students Sydney Arrington, Peter Greubel, and Matinicus C’Senger pose with AIR Guatemala founder and President (and Stetson Professor Emeritus, ), Dr. Anne Hallum in front of AIR’s Training Center

Over the summer, the Stetson students, Sydney Arrington, a Public Health major/Spanish minor, Peter Gruebel, also a Public Health major; and Matinicus C’Senger, double major in Economics and Philosophy and an Environmental Sustainability Fellow at Stetson, did a summer internship with AIR (Alliance for International Reforestation, Inc) Guatemala. During the experience, the students were able to work closely with local farmers to learn the practice of Regenerative Farming. The students also spoke Spanish during the entire time of the experience.

WHAT IS AIR GUATEMALA?

AIR is a non-profit organization improving human and environmental health in Guatemala.  With operations in Atlanta, Georgia and central Guatemala, AIR has trained over 4,000 farm families and planted almost 6 million native trees in Guatemala.  For over 25 years, AIR has implemented a community-based, five-year approach with great results and success.  AIR is a winner of the 2017 Equator Prize from the UN Environment Programme because of this successful model.  All salaried employees are local professionals, so ninety-two percent of funds and donations go straight to the field to implement projects and programs:  Rural school programs; tree nurseries; farmer training; and efficient, custom stoves.  AIR was founded in 1992 at Stetson University after Dr. Anne Hallum, Stetson University political professor, visited Guatemala for the first time and observed first hand the rural hunger and malnutrition, the barren mountainsides and mudslides, and the strength of the Maya people.

GOALS, PROCESS AND ACADEMIC PURSUITS:

Each year, one to three Stetson students are selected to participate in the AIR Guatemala internship program. All of their program expenses are covered by a generous endowment by Drs. David and Leighan Rinker. The main goal of the internship is for the student to provide tangible benefits to the local residents.  Likewise, the experience is designed to align with the academic pursuits of the students.  

Learning goals for the student interns include:

  • Discover the value and method for farming with trees (“Regenerative farming” aka “agroforestry”) for better anthropological and environmental well-being: The students planted trees where they brought the most benefit for the communities: Acatenango, Xibalbay, Paquixic, and Montellano. 
  • Learn  the effect of working with residents instead of for them. Residents requested help constructing efficient stoves from AIR Guatemala. Students constructed 3 stoves for two days, resulting in transformational lessons since they saw the living styles of the Mayan families, the hazards of breathing smoke all day, how close the families are and how fully their connection was to surrounding nature. 
  • Shadow the president of AIR Guatemala, Dr. Hallum. During the second week, a large group of volunteers arrived from Florida and Georgia, and all three Stetson students were enormously effective in welcoming these volunteers and showing them what they had learned the first week. Dr. Hallum also had all three students accompany her on important meetings with the AIR staff.  The interns were especially helpful in an unforeseen way: Dr. Hallum was prefacing a network technology of registering via GPS the exact location where each tree was planted, and then “selling” the planted trees to a company in Hong Kong for purpose of combating climate change. The staff—and Dr. Hallum—had to learn how to use this technology and naturally, the Stetson students were very comfortable with this fascinating technology and taught the staff the functions of it. 
  • Learning about the Mayan and Ladino cultures in Guatemala. An overarching goal is that students learned about the regional cultures while planting trees and building stoves in rural communities. For instance, one day, the women of the communities brought lunch in the field where the students were planting trees —they carried tortillas and hot soup in containers on their heads. The team also participated in two school programs with Mayan dances which the class students had prepared especially for AIR visitors.

FOOTPRINT LEFT IN GUATEMALA

The three students supported the construction of three fuel-efficient stoves which involved mixing cement, soaking and laying bricks—each stove required six-hours of work. The stoves have a chimney to ventilate smoke and prevent lung diseases; they also help to conserve trees.

Sydney Arrington helps build a stove for local residents.

The volunteers this summer—including the three students—planted approximately 2,000 trees. The trees were strategically located to prevent soil erosion and improve crops with nitrogen-fixing roots; prevent mudslides, and to protect water sources. As previously mentioned, the students taught AIR staff members and Dr. Hallum how to use the technology for photographing and syncing each tree. By the end of the two weeks, the team had registered and sold 886 trees to a company in Hong Kong.

Peter Gruebel plants trees in Guatemala

 The three students also participated in two rural school programs—helping to judge environmental contests and playing with children.

THE ADVENTURE DOES NOT STOP THERE!!

Apply to join this journey and work with Guatemalan communities in Summer 2020!!!  Applications are due by February 1, 2020.

This article was written based on Dr. Anne Hallum’s annual Air Guatemala report.

WORLD Students Participate in Global Leadership Summit

by Gabby Cassidy

Over Spring Break 2019, WORLD ambassadors Zoe Weaver and Caylyn Gunby attended the Global Student Leadership Summit in Boston, MA.

This conference, for students who had participated in study abroad and other international programs, had a goal to help them develop skills as successful global leaders. It also focused on students from diverse and underrepresented populations, such as first-generation, racial/ethnic minority, students with disabilities, high financial need, LGBTQ+, etc. Many face obstacles acquiring educational and leadership opportunities.

Throughout the conference, Weaver found herself learning more than she expected from the sessions. She was pushed to see the bigger picture of education abroad.

“I was pushed to see my study abroad as a time that I developed personally and was finally able to articulate the challenges of my trip to those who would understand. Then, after listening to others tell their own stories, I realized that we each had a unique experience that created the larger picture of diversity abroad.”

The connections she made with other students helped her to understand her own experiences and the education she received while studying in South Korea and Taiwan. Weaver also learned about the importance of diversity in study abroad and was inspired to do more here at Stetson. She expressed her desire to connect with the Black Student Association, the Asia Pacific American Coalition, the Caribbean Student Association, and other multicultural organizations to develop more initiatives to get their members involved in study abroad programs.

“Although being a woman brings its own challenges to international travel, I further developed an understanding of my privilege during this conference as an able-bodied, white, American student. Through this understanding, I began to build a standard for myself when it comes to becoming an ally both abroad and domestically to students who lack the opportunity to do the same as I.”

Gunby felt that the conference was a great professional opportunity for her. The panels and speakers had a profound impact and helped her feel confident in her plans post-graduation. The chance to connect with graduate schools and professionals, as well as other students in her same positions, helped her to reflect on her identity and improve her confidence in speaking about her experiences.

“Being able to speak with professionals who are now in International Education, who taught English abroad through JET, Fulbright, and TAPIF made me feel like I was taking the right steps towards a career in International Education or International Affairs.”

Gunby would like to bring more networking opportunities to Stetson’s campus for international careers. Events such as the Global Citizenship Fair and Acerima could benefit from having a keynote speaker or speakers from minority groups.

“The keynote speakers at the conference were inspiring and helped all of the students get involved and excited about the activities.”

Overall, her experiences at the Global Leadership Summit helped her to grow professionally as well as to have more confidence in her abilities and plans for the future.