Learning and Serving in South Africa




In May and June of 2016, the Business and Science departments will be leading the fourth annual Service Learning trip to South Africa. Students can make a difference working on a myriad of projects around the rural communities of Hoedspruit, South Africa and the Thornybush Reserve.

Students can support AIDs orphans, habitat rehabilitation, experience “a day in the life of a game warden” and get up­close with lions, elephants and leopards while earning credit hours.

Over the past three years, Sierra Nevada College students have painted schools, taught math and english and immersed themselves in the culture and people of the Limpopo Province.

“We need students who are willing to participate and give themselves to meet the increased demand that has been generated,” said Professor Mary Lewellen. “Numerous groups and communities have benefited from past SNC trips, and there is now a waiting list of communities who are actively seeking our assistance.”

More importantly, the Utah High School has asked that SNC students mentor and coach their students in the subjects of math, science and english.

The South Africa Service Learning  is more than an academic class

“The South African Service Learning trip gives students the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in a culture that is very unique, diverse, impassioned and beautiful while earning academic credit,” said SNC Alumnus Danny Graebel.

In years past, the students have been given the opportunity to make an impact in the Thornybush Reserve communities. Students learn about community ­based natural resource management and the impact that animals have on the sustainability of the Kruger National Park and Reserve.

This year, “students will participate in community­ based initiatives that support toy libraries, vegetable gardens, AIDs orphans, habitat rehabilitation, community schools and crèches and tutor at rural schools,” Lewellan said, as well as have the opportunity to observe the “big five” up close.

“The Africa trip was not only an obvious eye­opener for myself and a majority of other students— the areas and schools we worked at gave a humbling experience— but also the relationships we made with each other and the locals, and the memories and camaraderie with the group you are with, will be cherished for life,” said SNC Alumnus Max Huff.

The trip covers three sessions, and students can enroll in one session or all, depending on their interests. Students can earn up to 15 credits if they participate in all three sessions, but they are expected to finish their academic credits upon their return from South Africa.

“We are blessed with such an inspiring collection of young graduates who demonstrate such willingness and enthusiasm to share challenges and opportunities with our communities,” said counterparts in South Africa. “I haven’t seen such passion from young people for those in need in a long time. I am speechless with gratitude for the help and sponsorship we have received.”

There are multiple sessions and you do not have to pick just one 

The first session, May 16 through June 4, includes classes in Service Learning, Regional Studies, Africa Research: Elephants and an independent study course that requires a 15­45 page research paper.

The second session, June 1 through June 14, includes classes in Community­ Based Resource Management, Leadership in a Global Environment, Foreign Policy in South Africa and statistics.

The final session, June 14 through June 22, is the Natural History Field: Cape Peninsula course. Students will have the opportunity to climb Table Mountain, explore one of the original port cities (Simonstown), dive with Great White sharks, hike the Cape Peninsula and learn about flora and fauna and the history of the Cape.

“It’s hard to really describe the trip. It’s life­changing and something that all SNC students should experience,” said Graebel. “Almost daily, I recall the people, the sunsets, the joy of its open spaces and the differences that we can all make if we try to understand the needs, desires, and hopes of all.”

Students wont be lead by the blind, the instructors have huge ties with South Africa

Professors Lewellen and Morse have worked and lived in the southern African region for over 25 years as diplomats with the Agency for International Development. They have led 10 trips to South Africa and Zimbabwe for SNC.

“Traveling within the Limpopo area allows students to experience the Blyde River Canyon, (the third largest canyon in the world), learn about other cultures and, more importantly, themselves,”said Lewellen. “Students gain a greater appreciation for giving as well as develop a cultural awareness of South Africa and its rich history and diversity.”