A group of twelve Proctor students and three faculty members are entering their second week in Guatemala on one of Proctor’s Summer Service trips having spent the past seven days working alongside staff of Lemonade International. This trip marks the fifth year Proctor students have traveled to La Limonada, one of the poorest slums in Central America, to serve alongside some of the most gracious, joyful individuals on the planet. Faculty leaders Chris Bartlett ‘86 and Kayla Wagner have shared reflections from the first week on THIS blog, and we encourage you to check them out.
A second Summer Service trip will occur in mid-July when Patty Pond and Lori Patriacca ‘01 lead a group of students to the Rosebud Reservation to learn from and serve the Lakota Nation. Proctor's relationship with Rosebud dates back more than three decades, but this is the first Summer Service trip of this kind. Students will stay with a local Proctor family, experience traditional ceremonies, learn about the history of the Lakota people and the land, and engage with ongoing projects on the reservation utilizing their physical strength and energy. While in South Dakota, Patty and Lori will connect students with a number of Proctor alumni who continue to live and invest in their communities in Rosebud and Pine Ridge.
Fixing and helping create a distance between people, but we cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected.” Rachel Naomi Remen
While the impact of these summer service trips on student growth is long-lasting, framing the learning opportunities for students and the organizations with which Proctor works is absolutely critical to the success of these programs. The engagements with both Lemonade International and Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute (IMAP), a non-profit organization located in the community of Pachitulul, on the south edge of Lake Atitlán between San Lucas Tolimán and Santiago Atitlán, as well as with leaders on the Rosebud Reservation are service based. It is critical we (students, faculty leaders, and greater Proctor community) understand our group is not descending upon a less-privileged community to ‘help’, nor are we looking to ‘fix’ something that is broken. Instead, as anyone who has taken part in one of Proctor's summer service trips or who had the privilege of listening to Tita Evertz speak to the Proctor community in 2015 (read more about that visit here) understands, there is nothing broken to be fixed, but simply plenty of opportunities to be made whole.
In a 1999 essay, Helping, Fixing, Serving, Professor Rachel Remen offers this powerful definition of service:
“Service is not the same as helping. Helping is based on inequality, it's not a relationship between equals. When you help, you use your own strength to help someone with less strength. It's a one up, one down relationship, and people feel this inequality. When we help, we may inadvertently take away more than we give, diminishing the person's sense of self-worth and self-esteem… Serving is also different to fixing. We fix broken pipes; we don't fix people. When I set about fixing another person, it's because I see them as broken. Fixing is a form of judgment that separates us from one another; it creates a distance. So fundamentally, helping, fixing and serving are ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak; when you fix, you see life as broken; and when you serve, you see life as whole. When we serve in this way, we understand that this person's suffering is also my suffering, that their joy is also my joy… We may help or fix many things in our lives, but when we serve, we are always in the service of wholeness.”
As our students and faculty develop relationships with the people of La Limonada, Pachitulul, and Rosebud, this understanding of service intuitively guides their actions. We are once again reminded of our need to get proximate to our own learning. It is a philosophy that guides all we do as educators at Proctor, and we feel incredibly fortunate to be able to partner with organizations like Lemonade International and IMAP in Guatemala and the Rosebud community in order to facilitate the life-changing learning opportunities present on Proctor’s Summer Service trips.