Global Outreach Program Transforms Students through Service
By Jennifer Spencer
The challenges faced by many of the world's poorest citizens can seem intractable even to professionals who work to address them day in and day out.
For students learning about the social justice world through Fordham's Global Outreach program, sometimes the answer is as simple as helping the person down the street.
"The issues in the world, they're overwhelming, but I look outside, and I pick the first issue I see," said Daniel Krug, junior in the Gabelli School of Business.
"While I'm researching and signing petitions online, there may be a homeless man that waits outside the Metro-North station, and he needs help now," Krug said.
Global Outreach, a cultural immersion and service program, sends teams of students to live, work, and learn with partnering organizations in approximately 30 locations throughout the United States and overseas.
Global Perspective, Local Approach
For a program that thinks globally, much of the impact happens right here at home.
"We always say that New York City is the most exotic location we go to," said Paul Francis, director of Global Outreach.
Of Global Outreach's 30 annual projects, two are local, one each in New York and in Camden, N.J.
Whether the project is at home or abroad, the experience is as rewarding and beneficial for the students serving as it is for those who are helped.
"We really try to infuse a lot of spirituality, reflection, and daily examination of what we learn each day. That happens whether the project is in New York City or Calcutta, India," Francis said.
"We try to get away from the idea that students are going to affect someone's life, but instead focus on how the students themselves are going to change."
A desire to change student perceptions inspired Dan Krug to start a "Sock Saturdays" project through Global Outreach Every other weekend, Krug leads a team of students through Manhattan to distribute socks to homeless men.
Before and after each excursion, Krug talks with students about their stereotypes of the homeless and what they learned through their experience.
Though the socks he hands out give practical help to the homeless, he said one of his primary goals is to open students' eyes to the realities of individuals' needs.
"I would love for every student to be able to have an opportunity to sit down with a homeless individual and have a conversation," he said. "You can give a homeless person socks, you can give them food, but a lot of these guys just need someone to talk to."
Krug shared that one man he met on a Sock Saturday told him that Krug saved his life.
"He said, ‘I was going to kill myself today. Nobody's talked to me for a year,'" Krug said.
Learning about Self Through Serving Others
Reflection and changed experience are core to every Global Outreach project. Jackie Krakowski, who said her mother told her about Global Outreach, went on her first project during her freshman year.
Krakowski, a junior at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, who says she tends to "go big or go home," took her first Global Outreach trip to Ghana. She said being so completely out of her comfort zone was both overwhelming and life-changing.
Krakowski said she was the first white person some of the children she met on her Global Outreach project in Ghana had ever seen.
"You're so challenged to live in situations that you never dreamed people lived in. You come to terms with the fact that people live so simply and in such a different way from you," said the communications major.
"I've learned to view my privilege as something I can be grateful for, but also realize it is my duty to be aware that there are people who don't have the luxury of living life like I do. I will try to find a way to fight for their needs and to live in solidarity with them," Krakowski said.
Vincent Corcoran, a senior at Fordham College at Rose Hill, is a psychology major who has long wanted to pursue a career in clinical psychology.
During Global Outreach projects in Alaska and the Ukraine, Corcoran's work with elderly individuals influenced his decision to focus his practice on that population.
"The elderly have so much to say, but we kind of push them to the side and silence them. I think they're a forgotten population in the U.S. as we focus so much on being young," he said.
Francis said that students and alumni often tell him that Global Outreach changed their perspective of how they will live out their life and work. That, Francis said, is what Global Outreach is all about.
"What you learn in the classroom is enlightening, and what you do outside of the classroom is transformative. It gets to the core of why you're here and what you're trying to get from this experience," Francis said.