“SJU in Peru is an experiential discovery process that helps participants begin to understand patterns of consumption and waste, the disparity between the Global North and South, the key players in different social justice issues, gender inequalities and the exploitative arrangements built into the marketplace.”
In December 2004 a group of courageous Peruvian women, looking to improve their lives through their work in coffee production, came together with partners, CECANOR, and formed Café Femenino—a non-profit, all-volunteer organization aiming to empower female farmers. Traditionally, women in remote coffee communities have little to no voice or rights, socially, politically or economically, and were often victims of abuse, isolation, and exploitation. The women of Café Femenino believed that working on access to information, education and social resources, and gender equality would lead to stronger, more sustainable and vibrant communities – so that’s what they set out to do.
Around the same time that Café Femenino was establishing itself, St. Jerome’s University staff were beginning to see that both current and prospective students were seeking diverse experiences in their post-secondary education. Environmentalism was becoming a prominent topic around residence.
Their enthusiasm proved inspiring, and in an aim to put the students’ passion into practice, the University switched their food service coffee supply to Fairtrade coffee. St. Jerome’s University partnered with Planet Bean, a whole sale Fairtrade coffee roaster in Guelph, Ontario, who provides Café Femenino coffee in all of its outlets. In 2009, St. Jerome’s University travelled to Chiclayo, Peru to visit the Café Femenino coffee growers at PROASSA and CECANOR to begin to develop a service learning trip to Peru for students. Café Femenino was very keen on providing students with a hands-on, visual learning experience about what their organization does on local and global levels. In 2010, St. Jerome’s University brought students on the first SJU in Peru service learning experience. Later, partnered with Pura Vida, the University rounded out the program’s focus: gender equality and the complexity of the roles of international and community development organizations.
It isn’t an easy experience, but one that challenges students to explore outside of their comfort zone, challenges their previous perceptions of the world, and makes them grapple with the privileges they were born into. The program provides students with the opportunity to look at their lives through different lenses and participate in experiences that can have lasting impacts on the choices they make throughout their lives.
1. Provide students with access points to gain deeper insights into fundamental, and international social justice issues, and their complexity, from various perspectives and points of view. Students will:
- Discover and understand the term social justice
- Explore issues of structural injustice in the Peruvian context – specifically fair trade, economic disparity and exploitation
- Identify key populations affected by the different structural injustices and social justice issues
- Discover and observe the historical and current contexts of these structural injustices and social justice issues
- Map out the areas of conflict, collaboration and duplicate efforts between various community members/organizations
- Identify the common challenges in international development work when they are being addressed by multiple community members/organizations
2. Allow students the opportunity to form meaningful relationships with partner organizations (staff and the population served) and with each other. Students will:
- Build the capacity to create relationships across differences (ie. social status, diverse backgrounds, programs, etc.)
- Reflect on how their beliefs, perspectives and past experiences affect who and how they interact with those around them
- Participate in relationships building opportunities with leaders, and members of partner organizations, as well as the populations they serve
- Develop interpersonal tools to navigate conflict in discussions and conversation
- Engage with one another respectfully across differences of opinion
3. Support students through their exploration of responsible citizenship and Catholic Social Teaching as they relate to their service learning experience in Peru. Students will:
- Develop an understanding of Catholic Social Teaching principles
- Identify their social location in conjunction with power and privilege
- Discover and define what responsible citizenship looks like in local, national and international contexts
- Identify the qualities of responsible solidarity
- Understand the role they can play in addressing structural injustice
- Develop tools for critically evaluating social justice initiatives
4. Prepare students mentally, physically and intellectually to be responsible, respectful travelers. Students will:
- Develop an understanding around Peru’s culture, politics, geography and demographics
- Develop and practice risk management techniques to manage their own risk and the risk of others
- Define their comfort, growth and panic zones and understand how this will impact their participation in the experience
- Develop tools around listening and observation to assist
5. Provide students with opportunities to explore their role in addressing the different issues witnessed. Students will:
- Reflect on their relationship with the issue and articulate their pre-existing biases and assumptions
- Identify and create individual plans for continuing engagement with the issue and the community as a whole
- Discover the connections between the issue and their areas of study
- Continuously reflect on how their perspectives are changing throughout and after the experience
- Actively participate in mandatory pre-departure and re-integration retreats and sessions
- Support SJU in Peru partners with fundraising initiatives
- Honest, intentional, present and willing participation in the international component of the experience
- Commitment to being a team-player throughout the experience, willing to support and be supported by fellow cohort members in all parts of the experience.
Students are responsible for all of the costs associated with the SJU in Peru service learning trip (approximate trip cost $2,000-$2,400). There are opportunities for students to fundraise to support their participation in the SJU in Peru service learning trip. All accommodation and transportation in Peru are included in the trip cost. Additional costs to students include some meals in Peru, souvenirs and required immunizations.
Participants from any faculty are welcome and encouraged to apply to participate in the program. There is no one specific fit for this experience, and a diverse group of participants from a variety of experiences and backgrounds is welcomed as a way to enrich discussion.