Alec Zucker: “Learn the Life” A week of Service Learning

Village Life Outreach Project, Inc. is a non-profit organization  based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, founded in 2004 by Dr. Christopher Lewis. Village Life organizes trips to the Rorya District in Tanzania, a south-eastern African country. While there, Village Life provides aid to the villagers by supplying lunches for schools, donating bicycles to students, providing families with mosquito nets and clean drinking water, as well as many other things. Village Life’s philosophy is to offer a “Hand up” and not a “Hand out” through service learning and fundraising.

Phil Reinhart, a senior in the Service Scholar program at Finneytown High School in Cincinnati, is a prime example of Village Life’s relationship with the community and how service-learning can lead to life changing experiences. Reinhart had the burning desire to help the world. He was introduced to Village Life at a fundraiser and knew immediately that he wanted to get involved. Reinhart, along with classmate Kelly McGuire, organized an event on Monday, April 4 called “Be Hungry,” a 30 hour famine to raise awareness of the families in Africa that have to go long periods of time without eating.

“Be Hungry” was part of a weeklong service learning initiative launched by Reinhart and McGuire called “Learn the Life.” Each day provided a peek into the day-to-day experiences and tasks of African villagers.

On Tuesday, April 5 “Bike for Bikes,” an awareness event involving students riding their bikes to school, was hosted. More than 74 students rode their bikes to school in the likeness of African students that must ride to their classes. Police escorted the group of cyclist to Finneytown High School.

“Change for Change” was held on Wednesday, April 6. Students brought in spare change and gave it to the teachers. Each dollar led to one minute off of class for the day. In half a day, the students raised $1,500.

Thursday, April 7 was “Spirit Flip Flop Day.” Students wore their flip flops or sandals to represent the children of Africa that only have flip flops or no shoes at all.

The week culminated in an assembly that students had to pay $1 to attend. Students that bought the neon t-shirts that were on sale all week, wore them to the assembly, creating a vibrant sea of human glow sticks. The highlight of the assembly was  Finnytown High School presenting a $3,000 check to the Village Life Outreach Project. When asked about the students’ reactions Reinhart said, “Some students don’t get involved, but this week gave everybody a chance. People that don’t usually get involved had fun and learned from it.”

On May 19th, Finneytown High School, and its rival Wyoming High School, organized “Walk in My Shoes,” where students donated $10 and walked five miles from Spring Grove Cemetery to Fountain Square. “Many African students have to walk 5 miles just to get to school,” said Reinhart. “We carried signs, engaged the community, and collected donations as we walked through the city.”

This week gave Reinhart, and many other students, the opportunity to experience the power of service learning.  Service-learning allows students to be engaged in meaningful experiences outside of the classroom. This hands-on approach promotes empathy and helps students gain perspective. “It’s not just about helping people; it’s about learning [a] culture,” said Steve Elliot, the “service-learning guru.”

Reinhart has delved further into service learning by accompanying Village Life on June 7th as they set out for a two-week venture to Tanzania. While there he will be directly helping those that he, and Finnytown High School, raised money for by conducting research on the water supply in Tanzania. The research will analyze the effectiveness of water filters and develop effective ways of instructing the villagers on how to use them.

 by Alec Zucker

Edited by, Perry Simpson

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