Building ramps and connections: from Massachusetts to Albania
At a time of historic division, Nicole, a special education teacher at Shore Collaborative is transcending borders to teach her students business skills and build a more empathetic classroom.
She was searching for an opportunity to introduce her students to service learning so she contacted World Connect. We sent her several projects to pitch to her students, including a library construction project in Rwanda and an accessibility project in Albania.
Nicole planned several lessons around the concepts of a non-profit, donation, and fundraiser and she organized a day for her students to vote on a World Connect project, they planned to learn about the project, host a fundraiser, and Skype with project leaders. Nicole expected her students would choose the library project—her students love books and reading, and the accessibility project had a lot of moving parts. A youth group in Kukës, Albania (one of Albania's poorest regions) had written a social contract and committed to leading an effort to make their city more accessible by building ramps across it, World Connect committed to funding the project.
As Nicole explained the projects to her students, she was uncertain if they were engaged—maybe this was too complicated. She launched into an explanation of Albania and ramp construction and suddenly, they perked up. A student raised his hand and asked, "But what about David?"* David is one of Nicole's students who uses a wheelchair and was absent. Nicole had been disappointed that David wouldn't get to vote, but the rest of the class hadn't forgotten him.
Nicole explained that it would be very hard for David to live in Kukës; he wouldn't be able to access many of the places he could at home. In an instant, the importance of ramps became tangible and the students quickly moved to vote, unanimously selecting the ramp project.
Nicole's students spent the next several weeks baking and selling muffins to support Kukës. They learned about Albanian culture, began raising awareness about disability inclusion, and have even Skyped with project leaders which was an inspiring experience for all. Nicole reports that she has seen significant growth in her students' social skills.
Shore students are proving the power of connection, despite 4500 miles, during a time in which a nearby Facebook page can feel like another world.
* David is a pseudonym.
Written by August Graves, during a 2017 summer internship at World Connect. August is currently a sophomore at Occidental College in California.