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‘Global citizens’ to complete humanitarian work By Matt Murphy

WILBRAHAM – For some students, the world is their playground, especially for those at Wilbraham & Monson Academy (WMA). It’s not all play, however, for the students of WMA – an institution whose mission is to develop global citizens and leaders – as they will complete humanitarian service this summer while in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and the Yunnan Province in China.

“When they leave [WMA for

their service area], the kids think that every tree needs saving and they come back with a greater understanding of the realities of the world,” Walter Swanson, head of the school’s Center for Entrepreneurial and Global Studies (CEGS), said. “Over the past three to four

years, hundreds of students have traveled to well over 20 countries from Korea and China to the Amazon and India. The trips focus on global economies. In Korea, for example, the students visited the Hyundai factory where they learned about economics, and in the Amazon they learn about modernization and its effects on indigenous societies,” he explained. On July 20, WMA students

will travel to Brazil and the Amazon River Basin to for a first- hand look at life in a developing nation.

“Students will be visiting the

Kamayura tribe, a small indigenous culture that faces deforestation, climate change, and lack of adequate food. We are the only high school in the world that

has permission to visit this well- known tribe ... [It’s] an educational experience that will not be available in 10 years ... [and] it changes the lives of everyone involved,” Meghan Rothschild, director of marketing at WMA, said. Brian Esler, the associate head of school, who has embarked on the Amazon trip more than once, called his first trip to the area in 2001 as “an experience in cultural time travel.” “Students learn in textbooks about the historic colonization of many countries, but not with the realism and flavor of seeing it happening around them,” he added.

Students will also have the

opportunity to meet with Esler’s friend, John Cain Carter, a renowned conservationist and environmentalist. In 1996, Carter purchased

and moved onto a large ranch in Brazil, and was shocked by the rapid deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. As a result, he founded Alianca da Terra, a Brazilian conservation organization that protects and preserves the land. The school’s mission and

international opportunities are not exclusive to the Western Hemisphere, however. “Wilbraham & Monson

Academy senior Mengdie Melody Liu is undertaking a final project in her entrepreneurship class that aims to engage WMA student- volunteers in assisting the Yunnan Ethnic Minority School Project (YEMS) in Yunnan Province in China, highlighting the concept of ‘social entrepreneurship,’” Rothschild said. Liu moved to the U.S. from Yunnan Province two years ago.

Yunnan is one of the poorest provinces in the country, with one of the lowest education rates. Rothschild explained, “YEMS is a cross-cultural month- long volunteer program occurring in June. The program involves teaching English and donating needed resources such as books and supplies to ethnic-minority students living in an underprivileged village in Yunnan.”

Liu said, “When I was a kid

my parents used to take me to travel to underprivileged villages in my province, and I witnessed how the children the same age as me did not have the same opportunity for education, to go to college and to get a decent job. Most drop out at a very young age, say 13 or 14 years old, because of their family’s financial situation. They would drop out and farm with their family or work at the illegal factories – sweatshops that use child labor – in the center of town.” These experiences inspired

Liu to start this particular humanitarian service effort. “It is ridiculous that these

Students from Wilbraham & Monson Academy will once again travel to the Amazon in Brazil for a first-hand look at life in a developing nation.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Goolishian

children don’t get to choose where they go and what they do. The mission of this project is to provide these children an opportunity to education, through cultural infusion and session classes. And I want to encourage these children to dream big and not let poverty restrict their imaginations,” Liu said. There are two steps in the process for Liu’s ambition to come to fruition: fund-raising and gathering volunteers. “We sell custom made shirts

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