Student Perspective: IMPACT Matelot Service Learning

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Semester at Sea
Dec 18, 2015


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Student Perspective: IMPACT Matelot Service Learning

IMPACT Scholars and students experience the culture at Amizade in Trinidad.
IMPACT Scholars and students experience the culture at Amizade in Trinidad.

Story and Photos by Fall 2015 IMPACT Scholar, Hannah Ingersoll

My Thanksgiving was spent in an island country called Trinidad and Tobago, just off the coast of Venezuela. We were on the island for 2 days and I had the unique opportunity of doing a home-stay program in a town called Matelot. This town was at the end of the road and unless one lives here, there is no reason to ever visit Matelot. Many young people are leaving Matelot and looking to find work elsewhere because of the lack of jobs and opportunity in Matelot. It was an adorable little jungle-like town nestled between the ocean, a river and dense tropical forest. We spend the two days getting to know the Dorcas Women’s group, a coalition of middle-aged women who gather monthly to figure out ways to keep Matelot alive and thriving. Dorcas works in connection with Amizade—Service Learning, a nonprofit based in the States, whose Executive Director is actually SAS alumni. This program would not have been possible without the support from Amizade. It was interesting to see how a nonprofit was organized and run in a foreign country. Throughout the two days we swam in the river with some locals, enjoyed a few walks on the beach and learned how to do the traditional cultural dress wrapping from women of Dorcas. The women cooked us all our meals and we ate nothing but traditional Trinidadian food in typical Trinidadian homes. The setting was beautiful and it was inspiring to see women connecting through social activism in such a remote part of our world. After a delicious dinner, had a brainstorming session/discussion where the women asked us for advice on how to improve Dorcas. We gave them a handful of ideas, one of which was the creation of a Docas Girls Youth group. The women liked this idea and it will be interesting to see if they end up setting this group up. Over the two days spent at Matelot we also visit the local hospital, school and fishing center. On the whole, my experiences at Matelot and with the Dorcas women’s group were extremely eye opening and inspiring. I am interested in following the stories of Matelot into the future and seeing if the efforts of the Doraus women’s group are successful in keeping Matelot alive and thriving.

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