A group of students and faculty from Queens University of Charlotte will visit a school in Sierra Leone in West Africa for two weeks, where they will help young people with class work and new equipment.
The Queens group will volunteer at the Annie Walsh Memorial School, a girls’ school with a reputation for academic excellence.
The school, in the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown, has not recovered from damage suffered during a long civil war that ended in 2002.
Queens has forged an informal partnership with the school by working with the Carolinas’ chapter of Annie Walsh alumnae. The focus of the partnership is science.
Eight Queens students will go to Freetown, led by faculty members Dr. Kent Rhodes and Dr. Carrie DeJaco from Queens’ biology department. The students are Johanna Hassan, Sarah Hawley, Taylor Helms, Christina Platero, Hayden Rockecharlie, Brandon Shell, Meghan Wham and William Yates.
“We knew we did not want to take a very large group because of the conditions that we’re going to be faced with there,” Rhodes said. “There’s a lot of poverty around. We’re lucky enough that we will have good accommodations.”
The group has collected several large crates of science equipment from Queens for shipment to the school. The supplies include spectrophotometers (instruments for measuring the intensity of light), microscopes, lenses, mirrors, prisms and glassware.
While they are in Freetown, the Queens students and professors will assist faculty and staff with using the new supplies. They also may teach classes and observe other schools.
The Queens students also might purchase seeds in Freetown to start a community garden.
“With this trip, I hope to learn how other people live and how other educational systems and schools are conducted,” wrote student Taylor Helms, 20, in an email.
Prior to departing in mid-May, students must take a semester-long course to learn about West African history, culture and languages.
The Sierra Leone trip is offered through the John Belk International Program at Queens, designed to give undergraduate students a global perspective.
“There is an increased interest among faculty, and students, as well, I think, to have more trips with service components,” said Rhodes, 64. “This one is going to be heavily service, if not virtually all service.”
Rhodes said he knows the group can’t change the world in two weeks but hopes the students can make things a little better.
“I’m hoping that one of the lessons they’ll learn is, you don’t have to have all of the latest stuff to really be able to deliver a quality education,” he said.