Building Connections and Cultivating Global Perspectives during this year’s Global Service-Learning Summer Program – The Tammara Seabrook Anderson Spirit of Service Award’s First Success Story

By Kathrin Rising

The Tammara Seabrook Anderson Spirit of Service award was established to eliminate financial barriers to participating in JEP’s service-learning and community service programs.  Introduced at last year’s 50th Anniversary Gala, the program has already shown its first fruits. Not only did the generous donations towards this cause enable more hands-on student participation during the spring 2023 semester; it also opened doors for financially disadvantaged students to be a part of JEP’s Global Service-Learning summer program. 

After a successful pilot project in 2019, JEP partnered again with Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Poly U), as well as Dornsife’s Thematic Option Honors Program, to co-host our first summer exchange program since Covid. Six USC students and six Poly U students spent eight weeks in Hong Kong and Los Angeles exploring  food justice, homelessness and class-based concerns through study and service.

students in front of the famous LACMA street lights
Some of the Trojan students decided to share some iconic Los Angeles landmarks with their new friends from abroad during the weekends.

“I had never gone outside of North America before I applied and especially recently had become aware of just how much perspective I was missing because of that” one of the USC student participants said about his motivation to take part in this opportunity. “Having grown up here in LA and participating in various service and community engagement projects, I felt like I had a good grasp on how things work in my hometown, but I wanted to challenge myself to learn about how issues like food insecurity are handled outside of this familiar area.”

Trojan applicants had to not only submit a written application, but also attend an interview to discuss their objectives and hopes for the program. Of the six individuals who were ultimately offered a spot, four noted financial need as a barrier to participation. While the program was highly subsidized with a generous donor gift, USC students had to pay out of pocket for some expenses. Luckily, through the Tammara Seabrook Anderson Spirit of Service Award, we were able to bridge that gap for the four aforementioned students so they could fully participate in the adventure. 

During the program, which ran from May 15 to July 14, it became clear just how important and enriching the experiences were for everyone involved: “Both during our time in Hong Kong but also in LA I realized just how much there was still to learn and also how experiencing this with students who did not grow up in LA – whether they were fellow students from USC that grew up in NorCal, or our new friends from Poly U who grew up in Hong Kong or Korea – gave me a different perspective. It was also interesting to see how certain issues, like food insecurity, could be so similar between countries and at the same time be approached so differently,” one participant shared. 

Students posing in kitchen attire
Volunteering with Food Angels to put together nearly 7,000 pre-packaged meals

During both parts of the program, the twelve students worked with non-profit organizations, including staff and clients, to contribute to their cause as well as learn from their rich knowledge about food justice and the issues impacting their specific communities. In Hong Kong, that included projects with  Food Angels, where the students helped put together 7000 pre-packaged meals, or the Christian Concern for Homeless Association (CCHA), where they created produce carts for the SEED Foundation. During their time in Los Angeles, the group worked together with students from a local Compton middle school to install a Zip Grow hydroponic system in their science classroom and assisted with farming duties at MudTown Farms. The students engaged with the Compton Community Garden and San Pedro Community Gardens in Los Angeles and  visited urban gardens and food centers in Hong Kong, such as the Chung King Mansion and the Tai Po Market.

The program also included visits to local restaurants and food vendors, which everyone noted pulled the program together nicely. Beyond the scheduled programming, the global service-learning group pursued additional volunteer opportunities, such as joining a “Charity Walk” in solidarity with migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong.

JEP is thankful that the Tammara Seabrook Anderson Spirit of Service Award supported students’ participation in  this meaningful and impactful program, ensuring that financial status was not a limiting factor. One student reminisced, “I think my favorite part about the program, beyond the learning and engagement we experienced this summer, is the friendships we developed within our international group. We are still in touch and I anticipate we will stay in touch long after this summer, because we have this common passion and bonded during these impactful weeks that will always connect us.”

Students around a table filled with food
Bonding through shared cultural experiences – in Los Angeles and Hong Kong

To read more articles that were featured in the Summer 2023 Edition of “What’s new at the JEP House?” please click here: What’s new at the JEP House? – 2023 Summer Edition