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Global Service Program students make a difference in Kenya, Morocco, and India
Posted 03/13/2016 02:00PM

The TASIS Global Service Program transforms lives by providing every High School student a unique opportunity to connect across borders through comprehensive experiences that build empathy and encourage personal responsibility.

"A service learning trip could not be any more awakening. I will never forget what I have seen. This made me understand how much I have to help. I can't wait to go back."

-Yigit Eyuboglu ’17
Gram Vikas Global Service Program

Participation in the program—which is designed to awaken students to humanitarian needs; inspire them to build enduring, mutually-beneficial relationships; and lead them toward a life of active citizenship and committed service—is a graduation requirement.

The 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 following a very generous donation of CHF 3,000,000 from Mr. Opsahl and his family.

During the most recent Academic Travel period in February, TASIS students went on the first three Global Service trips of the 2015-2016 Academic Year, enjoying transformative experiences in Kenya, Morocco, and India.


The 2014 WISER Kenya trip

The Women’s Institute of Secondary Education & Research (WISER) is a remarkable girls-only boarding secondary school in Muhuru Bay, Kenya, a struggling rural community on Lake Victoria. The school holistically improves health, education, and economic outcomes for girls while also working with the community to change how girls are valued.

Global Service Program Coordinator Zach Mulert, EAL Teacher Hope Schlicht, and 12 TASIS students, who have been examining issues of universal education and gender equality during weekly Service Learning meetings throughout the year, spent nine days in February getting to know the community of Muhuru Bay. They assisted at local primary schools twice during the week, worked closely with students in the WISER school, helped organize the WISER Library, and conducted interviews that will be used to help market WISER.

TASIS student Zere Turlykhanova ’17 had the opportunity to interview two of the newest WISER students, Carol and Velma. Their answers reveal a great deal about the wonderful work WISER is doing and illustrate why TASIS should be proud to partner with a school that is taking girls who were considered not worth educating and turning them into some of Kenya’s top math and science students.

What was your life like before WISER?

Carol: Before I joined? I was studying in a public school. At times, I had enough money to pay the school fees, but sometimes I didn't. Sometimes they made me go away for three weeks, and then I returned. When I went back to school, they told me to go back and get money. My fellow students went on with the syllabus, and I was way too slow. It was hard.

Velma: Not good. I was traveling back and forth because I was in a private school and I did not have money. I was spending time at home because of the school fees. My parents were always there, but with no job.

Tell me about your family.

Carol: My family consists of three children. My older brother is always at home helping my mother just to earn money. My sister is in class eight, but she is paying very little money to be in school.

Velma: We are six. My older brother is in form four, and my older sister is married to a bad man. He is traveling with no money and income all the time. She is traveling badly. My other sisters are all enrolled in a public school. They don't like the school.

Here are a few things TASIS students had to say when asked what they would remember most from their trip to Kenya.

The people I traveled with and the people in Kenya were amazing! The activities that Mr. Mulert and Ms. Schlicht gave us were really good.

Sarah De Giorgi Pearce ’17


Meeting the girls at WISER was the most memorable part of this trip.

Aleyna ’17


The most memorable part was going back and remembering many of the girls from last year since this is my second time on this trip.

Isabella Coen ’16


The most memorable part of this trip was teaching at the public school.

Adrian Bulz ’16

How do you hope Wiser will change your life? What do you expect from it?

Carol: I expect to work on my education, so they continue providing me with scholarships. I wish to go out and get a job, a successful one, so I can bring my siblings back to school.

Velma: You know when you pass here at WISER, they continue providing scholarships. I might help my siblings if that is the case.

How are the other girls treating you?

Carol: By now they are still showing us around. I don't know what’s to come. I think they are nice.

Velma: They are treating me well and give me everything I want. I'm still a visitor. They direct me.

What is your favorite part about being in Wiser?

Carol: (Laughs) I just like WISER. There are no school fees, and I don't need to go back and forth. I don't need to travel. I'm just working my best to achieve a passing grade, so I can continue receiving education.

Velma: The teachers. The way they are teaching, it's quality. In public schools, the teachers were always absent. Teachers here have passion. I know I'm going to pass because I feel ready with them.

What are your aspirations? What do you want to be?

Carol: I would like to be an engineer or a lecturer. I'm longing to be a lawyer as well, so I can take Kenya in a straight direction. Lawyers get a lot of money. I'm in a good life now, and I want my friends and family to be there too. I will help them. I don't want to go back to the terrible life.

Velma: I want to be a nurse because in nursing your work is to deal with the patients, and it feels good. Teaching is difficult, students fail to understand sometimes. Being a nurse is easier, just waiting for the patients to come and ask for help.

What are your hobbies?

Carol: My hobby is football. I love it. I also like worshipping. God has done wonders by bringing me here.

Velma: My hobby is volleyball, I like playing it very much. In football you need to run a lot. (Laughs) It's too much!

How did you find out about WISER?

Carol: Some people in the primary school were speaking about WISER all the time. Some girls were taken by WISER. The teachers were encouraging girls to attend WISER. The word went around, and I only heard good things. It has always been a dream and now I am here.

Velma: My aunt was here in WISER and she got an A-. She motivated me to apply and join WISER. People always know what they are doing here. Teachers were always encouraging us as well, promoting girls to join.

How are you adjusting? Is it difficult?

Carol: It was not difficult to adjust. I got girls who like praying and they are sharing the same mission with me. God does wonders, and every one at WISER knows that.

Velma: The first day I came was amazing. It was not difficult. I was coming here quite a lot, and I was familiar with the students beforehand. When I came, I was recognized and accepted.

What was your worst experience in life?

Carol: During 2010, my father passed away. By that time my father was a backbone. He was encouraging us to live. My brother loved my father very much, and he was continually sick after he died. We were at the hospital all the time. It was terrible—my mom, she was always crying. We were constantly crying. I felt like committing suicide. But God is too good.

Velma: In 2014, when I was in class seven, my father was extremely sick. I was told to sit at home instead of attending school. I took two weeks. The syllabus was running out of my hands. The teachers and students were ahead and I was struggling to catch up.

What would you be doing right now if it weren't for WISER?

Carol: Ugh. I would be helping my mom with her work. There would be no fee. I would just encourage work in our family to receive money. My mom told me that my aunts might employ me, for money, but God brought me to WISER.

Velma: My future would look dark. If I wasn't here, I would not know what to do. Waking up, planting, coming back. My mom is jobless. It would be so hard.

Click here to see more photos from the Kenya trip

Gram Vikas India

The 2015 Gram Vikas India Trip

Gram Vikas India is an NGO that has been working with the rural people of Odisha, India, for more than 36 years with the aim of building an equitable and sustainable society where people live in peace with dignity—expanding horizons through research, service, and experience. Led by Math Teacher Thomas Joyce and Reception Head Wendy Kessel, the 13 students in this Service Learning group learned about the regions of India and researched educational opportunities for students in the areas Gram Vikas serves prior to spending eight days in India working directly with Gram Vikas.

Amanda McAfee ’16 offered some impressive thoughts on this year’s trip:

One would think a language barrier would inhibit communication, but this was not the case for our group when we traveled to India. The inability to rely on language as the sole form of communication made everyone listen and watch more closely than they would have before, and we saw what we might not have noticed before. Color. The red dirt that spun out clouds of dust behind our bus contrasted with the green of the rice paddies and formed the backdrop of our adventure. The colors of the walls that were painted with imagination and the houses that had been painted with pride, prayers, and ownership greeted us at the school and the villages we visited. We began to recognize the color of dignity, for it was painted on the walls of the bathing facilities Gram Vikas had helped build. We reveled in the pride that villagers took from knowing they had done something so impressive it was drawing people to them from all over the world.  We found passion in the children who voiced their dreams of becoming nurses and weightlifters.  We experienced the passion, joy, and color that words can’t articulate. Though we went to serve others, they served us a plate of the vibrant spices of life and showed us what to share with others through our service. I want everyone to know the spice of life and the taste of colors.

Click here to see more photos from the India trip

Mission Morocco

The 2015 Mission Morocco trip

Mission Morocco explores the multiple and unique factors that affect economic and social development in Morocco. Throughout the school year, this Service Learning group looks at the entire spectrum of issues related to development, such as education, women's rights, children's rights, and accessibility.

During February Academic Travel, Physical Education and Health Teacher Tom Lill and High School Academic Travel Coordinator Natalie Philpot took 13 students to Morocco for eight days to help improve access to education for underprivileged or abandoned children. Marianne Tissot ’16 provided this mature and thoughtful account of the trip:

The most beautiful aspect of our trip to Morocco, apart from the enchanting arabic music and exquisite orientalist mosaic patterns and motifs, is the kindness of its people that radiated everywhere we went. Whether it was by welcoming us with amicable smiles or offering us delicious mint tea, Moroccans were amazingly hospitable and generous. From Marrakech to Agadir, nothing brought us greater feelings of joy than seeing the beautiful smiles that appeared on the children’s faces as we threw a soccer ball in the air or simply stretched our arms to embrace them. This opportunity to work with underprivileged children at a daycare center taught all of us that, just like those children, we don’t need much in life to truly enjoy ourselves. At the end of the day, spreading love and compassion is the key to achieving true happiness.

Click here to see more photos from the Morocco trip

Upcoming Global Service Program trips

Service Learning groups will be setting off on three international trips during the upcoming Spring Holiday.

Nepal: After learning about the history of Nepal and Tibetan refugees, TASIS students, with the help and insights of the Tserok community, raise funds and travel to Nepal, where they spend two full weeks helping develop infrastructure for the Tserok Tibetan refugee camp. Particular areas of focus include education and environmental stewardship.

Ethiopia: TASIS students work closely with Nuovo Fiore Ethiopia, a non-profit organization that aids and encourages the education of elementary-aged young boys and girls in East Africa. Students learn about the economic, political, and social inequalities prevalent in Ethiopia while actively fundraising to support Nuovo Fiore’s key initiatives. They then travel to Ethiopia for one week to help the Auxilium Grade School improve the lives and education of young children in need.

Southern Africa: In the Serving Southern Africa group, TASIS students challenge stereotypes about life in Africa and its people, spending the year learning about the challenges of development and economic growth in rural Africa. For two full weeks during the Spring Holiday, students assist in rural and urban communities in Zambia, building homes for homeless women and children, helping the elderly, volunteering at the local preschool, helping with the provision of medication at a local hospital, building environmentally-sustainable solar ovens, planting trees, holding art workshops for street children, and transforming the community through their service.

TASIS Global Service Program

The 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 Global Service Program transforms lives by providing every High School student a unique opportunity to connect across borders through comprehensive experiences that build empathy and encourage personal responsibility. Participation in the program—which is designed to awaken students to humanitarian needs, inspire them to build enduring, mutually beneficial relationships, and lead them toward a life of active citizenship and committed service—is a graduation requirement.

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