The Opsahl Global Service Program was envisioned by Jan Opsahl ’68, who became the first international student at TASIS when he came from Norway in 1965. The pioneering program was launched in 2013 with major support from a most generous donation from Mr. Opsahl and his family to set up the Global Service Trust. This Trust, along with support from the TASIS Foundation, make this incredible, life-changing experience for our students possible.
The TASIS Opsahl Global Service Program transforms lives by providing every High School student with a unique opportunity to connect across borders—whether geographic, economic, or social—through comprehensive experiences that build empathy and encourage personal responsibility. The Program awakens students to humanitarian needs, inspires them to build enduring, mutually beneficial relationships, and leads them toward a life of active citizenship and committed service.
This service learning program is compulsory for all students in grade nine. During weekly meetings that include discussions, guest speakers, films, simulations, readings, and other activities, students are exposed to a number of themes and topics that the Opsahl Global Service Program seeks to address: Education, Water/Sanitation, Poverty, Gender Equality, the Environment, and Marginalized Populations.
Casa Elisabetta: At least once a month on Wednesday afternoons, TASIS students host children from this home for disadvantaged mothers and their families. Students set up celebrations, fundraise, and plan activities for young children at Casa Elisabetta. All participants should speak some Italian and enjoy spending time and playing with very young children.
Intergenerations: TASIS students visit Al Pagnolo, a local retirement home, twice a month on Wednesday afternoons. The group name stems from the encounters in which students share time with people of a different generation. Students use their talents, interests, and energy to plan and prepare activities (e.g., conversations, playing games, cooking, singing, sorts, tournaments, etc.) with the residents of Al Pagnolo. All participants should be Italian speakers or enrolled in at least Italian 2.
Red Cross Refugees: The Red Cross in Paradiso provides support to young (teenage) refugees from places such as Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, and Afghanistan as they make a new start in Switzerland. TASIS students plan and participate in after-school activities twice a month on Wednesdays with teenage refugees and asylum seekers residing in Lugano. All participants should speak some Italian.
OTAF: A new collaboration with TASIS this year, OTAF supports people with differing degrees of physical and mental disabilities. Students will interact and socialize one-on-one with three guests, who will be visiting the TASIS campus twice a month on Wednesdays. All participants should speak Italian.
Cambodia works with two Cambodian NGOs that are dedicated to improving economic and educational conditions in Cambodia. Students work with Tabitha to help construct homes for Cambodian families and also help support Tabitha’s family savings program. Students also work with PEPY, an organization that aims to empower youth and believes that one has to learn before one can help—and that a wider understanding of Cambodian contexts and related development issues is essential before trying to support change. In June, TASIS students volunteer in Tabitha communities in the Cambodian countryside as well as at local educational facilities in Siem Reap, assisting with the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program.
EcoVisio Moldova, working in the poorest country in Europe—nestled between Romania and Ukraine—is a youth-led grassroots NGO that has built an environmentally friendly village in the small town of Riscova (39 km from Chişinău) designed to promote sustainable living and community development. TASIS students help EcoVisio with a variety of infrastructure projects during the first week of Spring Break—both within the Eco-village and within the broader community, where they have designed and built equipment for a nature park in order to provide locals a space for gatherings and celebrations.
Gram Vikas India is an NGO that has been working with the rural people of Odisha, India, for nearly 40 years. Students learn about the regions of India and research educational opportunities for students in the areas Gram Vikas serves. The group spends eight days in India working with Gram Vikas during February Academic Travel. They focus on “expanding horizons through research, service, and experience.”
Nepal: After learning about the history of Nepal and the plight of Tibetan refugees, TASIS students, with the help and insights of the Tserok community, raise funds and travel to Nepal for two weeks during Spring Break to help develop infrastructure for the Tserok Tibetan refugee camp. Particular areas of focus include building projects alongside the local community, education, and environmental stewardship.
Nuovo Fiore Ethiopia is a non-profit organization that aids and encourages the education of elementary school-aged and middle school-aged boys and girls in East Africa. TASIS students learn about the economic, political, and social inequalities prevalent in Ethiopia while actively fundraising to support Nuovo Fiore’s key initiatives. During the first week of Spring Break, students travel to Ethiopia to help the Auxilium Grade School improve the lives and education of young children in need.
Serving Southern Africa: While confronting stereotypes about life in Africa and its people, TASIS students spend the year learning about the challenges of development and economic growth in rural Africa. For two weeks in June, students assist in rural and urban communities in Zambia, helping the elderly, volunteering at the local preschool, assisting with the provision of medication at a local hospital, planting trees, holding art workshops for street children, and transforming the community through their service.
Understanding Ulgii (Teaching in Mongolia): This group is dedicated to supporting and building a lasting relationship between TASIS students and a community of English language learners in Ulgii, a city in western Mongolia. TASIS students plan and teach English language lessons to school-age students during the first 10 days of June vacation. Fundraising covers the cost of school supplies, including books, posters, and new desks. Additional side projects have included environmental initiatives, such as researching and teaching about various methods of waste management on small and large scales.
WISER Kenya: WISER is a girls-only boarding secondary school in Muhuru Bay, Kenya, a struggling rural community on Lake Victoria. After examining issues of universal education and gender equality, students spend nine days during the latter part of Spring Break getting to know the community of Muhuru Bay, Kenya. They assist at local primary schools, educate the community on the benefits of purified water, visit local medical clinics, and work closely with the WISER school.
For more information, please contact Opsahl Global Service Program Director Danny Schiff.