Senior Suzanne Schmitz and Junior Frances Burton use their summer breaks for service
Summer—a time for sun, sand and… service. Some of Hockaday’s own used their break to help other people, whether it be on different continents or in their own communities.
Senior Suzanne Schmitz spent one month in Thailand, travelling from village to village with nothing but a backpack, limited to only one outfit and the bare essentials. Accompanied by a diverse array of teenagers also involved with the Rustic Pathways organization, Schmitz did everything from laying down cement for a playground to helping to construct facilities for various schools, including a cafeteria and two classrooms. She also helped teach underprivileged children English.
“The language barrier was hard to overcome,” Scmitz said, explaining that not only were the Thai children unable to understand everything she had to say, but she also couldn’t always communicate clearly with the other people on her trip. Despite the language barrier, Schmitz enjoyed her trip so much that she is contemplating taking a gap year between her final year at Hockaday and her first at university to continue serving others. With this intent to do more, she reveals that, “[she’s] thinking about a trip to New Zealand next, probably with another organization or even on [her] own.
Starting within her own community, junior Frances Burton didn’t have to travel far to volunteer her services. She spent the month of July surrounded by first and second graders, helping them improve in reading and mathematics. As a volunteer at the B3X program, “Beakers, Beats and Base 10,” at the Wesley-Rankin Community Center in West Dallas, she aimed to help teach children the importance of science, music and mathematics. Burton appreciated that the camp was “not just a babysitting camp,” but was actually quite helpful.
“It’s just so rewarding to see [the children] growing and learning throughout the summer,” Burton recounted, recalling the changes she saw in the children’s knowledge and understanding of concepts as the summer program came to a close.
But that wasn’t Burton’s only accomplishment over summer, however, as back in May she traveled abroad with 12 other Hockaday girls, who embarked on a two-week long service-learning trip to Peru.
Working in unison with engineering students from the University of New Hampshire, the 13 girls spent their first week in San Pedro de Casta, a Peruvian village in the Andes Mountains that needed a new water pipeline, specifically one that was not contaminated by E. coli. When they weren’t dragging 33-pound bags of sand up the mountainside, the girls were digging trenches with the villagers to make way for the pipeline that the UNH students had designed and built.
Burton found the experience inspiring after seeing “how interested the villagers were in fixing their community and building new lives for themselves.”
Freshman Amelia Brown, one of the girls who also traveled to Peru, surprised herself when the first week of the trip came to an end, realizing that, “[she] didn’t know [she] was strong enough to accomplish something so big.” Upon the completion of the trenches, the girls ventured on to Cusco, Peru, where they stayed in the best hotel in town, each room complete with two wool-stuffed mattresses and a single hook for clothing. There, they volunteered at Albergue, a boarding school dedicated to housing impoverished Peruvian children with rural backgrounds in efforts to make earning an education less burdensome. They painted and repaired the kitchen and living areas, tutoring the children in their spare time. Soon enough, the second week passed, and the girls waved their final goodbyes, finally boarding a much delayed flight home.
“It’s always great to hear of girls who do projects on their own to find ways to help their communities or cities,” Upper School Head John Ashton said after hearing about the many service projects that Hockaday girls’ completed this summer, “I’m glad that our travel programs are gaining momentum.”
According to Ashton, the 2015 trip destinations will be confirmed in a few weeks and will continue to broaden Hockaday’s mission of serving the community.
– Hufsa Husain