Our service learning initiatives not only deliver positive outcomes for the communities that they support, but also broaden our students’ thinking, encouraging international-mindedness and ethical choices within a global context.
At ACS Doha, we encourage student learning and development through community engagement and service, in the form of our Service Learning Programme. Service learning is a natural part of our curriculum across Middle and High School, and through the IB years, during which our students embark on group and personal projects that connect them with communities in Doha and around the world.
From the Classroom to the Community
As part of our Service Learning Programme, eight ACS Doha students and two chaperones recently travelled to Laos to support a village community in the construction of eco-bungalows for tourists and backpacker rental. The trip was open to students from grades 8 to 11 and took three months to plan. Led by Malcolm Purnell, one of ACS Doha’s teachers, the organising team worked with parents and students to discuss plans and desired outcomes. Risks were reviewed and assessed, and together with World Volunteer, a non-profit group, the trip’s leaders arranged logistics.
On arriving at their host village in Laos, the volunteers experienced a world far removed from the relative privilege of life in Qatar. The village had no running water; students had to use outdoor showers and bathrooms and slept on concrete floors. However, the volunteers readily pushed forwards with the physical task of constructing the mud bungalows. Over the course of the five days, our students built mud pits and bricks, cut straw with machetes, packed walls and other structures with soil and saw the bungalows steadily come to life.
We Drive Positive Change
Despite the challenges of working in hard conditions under the blazing sun and with little access to the comforts of home, the experience proved incredibly rewarding for the volunteers. The students learned the value of cooperation and teamwork, and that it was possible to have fun even whilst completing difficult tasks. What the villagers lacked in luxuries or physical comforts, they made up for in warmth. "Our memories were the biggest takeaway," noted Haven Cody, one of the student leaders. The volunteers were welcomed with incredible kindness, despite significant language barriers, and the students gained a sense of the common humanity they shared with their host community. Beyond the rigours of bungalow construction, the students were also able to explore the culture and phenomenal natural beauty of Laos: visiting night markets, trekking through rainforests, exploring waterfalls and sailing down the Mekong River.
Our organising team is keen to build up this programme for the future, and plans are already afoot for other volunteering expeditions.