Learning and Serving Together
Students spend Reading Break in many places
3 min. read
March 1, 2013

“Reading Week for university students is often a time to relax and catch up on some readings and other assignments. This past February, however, 22 students, staff, and volunteers spent their Reading Week travelling to three very different locations for service and learning trips. One team headed due north to Timmins, ON, and partnered with Mennonite Central Committee to learn more about First Nations culture, society, politics, and environmental concerns. A second headed south, to sunny Nashville TN, to learn about faith and popular culture in Christianity and country music. And a third team stayed close to home, spending a week living in downtown Hamilton and learning about their own community. While students’ traveling for service projects is nothing new, there were some distinctive features about these trips that marked a new beginning for service-learning at Redeemer. First, all three trips took place within one day’s drive. This was a strategic decision, intended both to reduce student costs and carbon footprints, as well as to expose our students to the diverse cultures which exist here in Canada and nearby in the United States. Second, instead of focusing on acts of service, which may reproduce the status quo, students spent the majority of the trip either participating with ongoing activities or meeting with community leaders. Having long, thoughtful discussions helped students better understand the complex issues in each community. For example, students shared (instead of served), a meal with First Nations people at the Friendship Centre in Timmins.” — Steven Dykstra is Redeemer’s Community Development Coordinator. Tristan Persaud, a second-year student, reflects on his experiences on the Timmins service and learning trip. “The goal of the trip was to engage and educate ourselves about First Nations people, not just their culture, but their daily lives, their history, geography, and politics. My hope was to show at least one person that I cared. The trip started with learning the history behind the land treaty that dictates the distribution of, and subsequent right to, land for First Nations people. We talked about what the treaty meant to the people who signed it and what it means to those nations of people today. We also went to the Nishnawbe-Aski Friendship Centre, to try as best as we could to strike up conversation with people we met there, and trying to form friendships. It was at the Friendship Centre that I experienced one of my highlights of the trip – drum playing. After the evening meal, a group of seven or eight teenagers organized themselves around a large drum in the middle of the room and began to play and sing. The feel of them hammering on this drum in unison, and singing in a way unlike any kind of music today can only be described as mesmerizing. It was the music of their people and these teenagers were taking hold of it, embracing their culture with passion! I will always remember the fantastic time I had in the presence of these great people. I will also never forget what I have learned about the people who walked these lands before we ever arrived. It has instilled in me a desire to seek truth and reconciliation for our brothers and sisters in First Nations communities.”

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