This past summer, six Garrison Forest students traveled to different parts of the world for service projects as part of the school’s Jenkins Fellows program. Funded by the Elsie “Muffie” Foster Jenkins ’53 Community Service Endowment, the Jenkins Fellows program allows rising sophomores, juniors or seniors to apply for funding to create their own in-depth service projects or connect with an existing service program of their choice over the summer. From identifying artifacts in Peru to teaching English in Bangladesh, the six 2017 Jenkins Fellows selected this year detailed their life-changing experiences to an audience of fellow students, faculty and alumnae earlier this month. Nearly 70 GFS students have made a difference in communities both internationally and in the United States since the Jenkins Fellows program began in 2005.
“We had an amazing variety of projects this year,” said Jenkins Program Director Barb Ackerman. “The Jenkins Fellows shared their creativity, compassion, and talents with the children and adults with whom they worked, and then they shared everything they learned with the GFS community when they gave their excellent presentations.”
2017 Jenkins Fellowship Projects
Marion Riley ’19, Incan and Wari Archaeology with Projects Abroad – Lucre Valley, Peru
Marion Riley ’19 worked with Projects Abroad in Lucre Valley, Peru on uncovering and classifying ceramics at an Incan archaeological site in Pikillaqta National Archaeological Park. Tourism provides one of the main sources of income in Peru, yet the Peruvian government has a limited budget for maintaining landmarks and exploring new sites. Each day, Marion dug at the site under the guidance of lead archaeologist Jhon Valencia to unearth bones and ceramics and then helped to classify the ceramics following the dig. Supported by the lead archaeologist, she and her dig partner, a 21-year-old student from Australia, hypothesized that their work area served as something similar to a kitchen in a home. In addition to learning new skills and meeting incredible people from all over the globe, Marion’s work will help to support the tourism economy in Peru and to keep the Peruvian people connected with their rich history.
Fangwen Xia ’19 and Clementine Shou ’19 – Dive for Love, Shenzhen, China
Fangwen Xia ’19 and Clementine Shou ’19, both GFS boarders and natives of Shenzhen, China, participated together in their Jenkins Fellowship planting coral in Shenzhen for Dive for Love, a Shenzhen-based NGO run by volunteer scuba divers whose mission is to help restore the city’s once-thriving aquatic environment by planting coral reefs.
The students were taught how to cultivate the coral fragments on land before both girls went out to the dive site; Clementine assisted volunteers from the boat while Fangwen dove to plant coral. With help from Dive for Love volunteers, Fangwen fought through the challenge of strong, underwater currents and low visibility in order to mix epoxy underwater and chisel space on a rock for their coral in order to attach it. In addition to their work planting coral, Clementine and FangWen assisted Dive for Love as they hosted the 2017 China Ocean NGO forum. The girls both felt honored to be able to make a difference in their hometown and have gained a deeper perspective on and interest in environmental preservation.
Leanne Garten ’18 – Unitaf (Unified Task Force) in Tel Aviv, Israel
Leanne worked for Unitaf, an organization that helps to provide care and education for migrant and refugee children in Tel Aviv. Israel is home to 45,000 refugees, many of whom have sought asylum in Israel from countries like Eritrea. Without Israeli status and with little means to provide childcare for their children, refugee families are faced with few daycare options, often leaving these children subject to neglect and abuse in inadequate childcare centers.
Inspired by her own family’s story of seeking asylum following the Holocaust, Leanne helped support the organization’s mission by caring for the children and babies at the childcare center in South Tel Aviv. After taking part in this important work in helping ensure that refugee children are able to receive a safe, quality education, Leanne was even able to attend a “graduation” for the children who had reached school age.
Shyamaa Khan ’19 – Concerned Women for Family Development in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Shymaa traveled to Bangladesh to teach English to students in grades 3-5 through Concerned Women for Family Development, a non-profit organization run by women of Bangladesh to empower women and underprivileged youth in urban and rural areas. Shymaa used books, cartoons, fairytales, drawing and storytelling to teach English to the classes of native Bangla speakers. She also helped older students at the school with basic computer skills and donated a laptop to the school.
Through her time in Bangladesh, Shymaa built deep bonds with the students and helped them to improve their confidence in the English language through methods that were fun and meaningful to them. Following her fellowship, Shymaa will continue to support the school. She plans to raise money to donate an additional laptop, hold a book drive to provide more fairytale books to the students and Skype with the students throughout the year.
Yulin (Paris) Li ’19 – Banbar Zhongxing Elementary School in Banbar, Tibet
Paris lived and taught English at the Banbar Zhonxing Elementary School, a boarding school for elementary school children in Banbar, Tibet. Often students in Banbar must live on-campus in order to attend school due to the travel distance between home and school in this rural area. While at the school, Paris used creative methods such as songs and stories to teach English to classes of about 80 Tibetan elementary school students. She also spent time with the children in the dorms and used her experience as a peer educator to help the teachers to develop a mental health curriculum. Paris worked diligently through the challenges of mountain sickness and language barriers to develop her own lessons and to help improve the students’ English comprehension skills over the summer. One of the most valuable lessons she learned from the Fellowship was one she quoted in her presentation by the school’s Principal Zemu: “Education is never about what you teach your students, it is about what they learn and take away.”
For more information about the Garrison Forest School, visit the website at https://www.gfs.org/.