Travels with Olivia

 

I would like to introduce Olivia Borgmann, a summer intern at Global Weeks. Olivia just graduated from Garfield High School in Seattle and will be attending Macalester College in the fall. I feel fortunate to have her on my team this summer; she is dedicated, hard-working, organized and delightful. I met Olivia last fall when I started a consulting job with Technology Services Corps (TSC), a global service organization that works with Garfield High School students to provide computers, software and training to young people in other parts of the world. Student empowerment is a hallmark of the group, both in trip leadership and board membership. I have asked Olivia to share her experience with TSC as a leader and board member, as well as anything else she wants to share about her journey to global citizenship.

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With students at The Puente Piedra Project

If I had to name one thing in High School that had the greatest impact on shaping the direction of my life, it would be Technology Services Corps. TSC is a non-profit organization that is focused on engaging Garfield students in technology orientated service trips. To date we have installed over 500 computers at 38 schools worldwide.

I first became involved with TSC in the fall of my sophomore year of High School. TSC’s focus on student leadership coupled with the unique opportunity to exclusively work with fellow Garfield students immediately piqued my interest. I applied and was accepted onto a service trip to Guatemala.  For someone who had never been out of the country minus a few short trips across the Canadian border, the thought of traveling to a foreign country, let alone one whose language I did not speak (I had taken many years of French) was extremely daunting. It’s the same feeling that I see in kids’ eyes when I go to classes to talk about upcoming trips. Yeah this looks interesting but I could never do something like that myself. Seeing my classmates gain confidence and international perspective through involvement with TSC became one of my main motivations in working with the organization.

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             Playing with second graders at              Safe Passage 

In Guatemala we installed computer labs at two different schools.The first was located at Safe Passage, a school working to break the cycle of poverty by educating children whose parents work in the infamous Guatemala City Dump, the other a small K-2 school on the outskirts of Antigua.

I returned from Guatemala with a passion for global outreach and a strong desire to get more involved in TSC’s service work. In September of that year I was invited to join the TSC Board as a Student Advisor. Participating in monthly board meetings provided me with a behind the scenes understanding of the decision making and planning that goes into each TSC expedition. I loved the excitement and complexity of building the framework for each upcoming trip, so I decided to apply to be one of the TSC Leads for the summer trip to Peru and was selected as a Logistic Lead.

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       Teaching in the newly installed lab at          The Puente Piedra Project

I spent that winter working with my co-leads running student meetings, organizing team roles, leading fundraising efforts and communicating between team members and the Board. In July 2014 our team traveled to Lima, Peru and set up two labs in Puente Piedra. The main lab we installed was at a school partnered with the University of Washington through The Puente Piedra Project.

While I loved every minute of Guatemala, Peru was a more eye opening experience for me. We stayed in a convent called Hogar Immanuel, located in Zapallal, a sub section of Puente Piedra, the third largest slum in the world. Not only does this old convent house volunteers working at nearby schools, but it is also a girl’s orphanage (17 girls ages 4-20) and a kindergarten for children in the neighborhood. On one of the first nights that we were at the convent we were asked if we wanted to help tutor the girls living at the orphanage during their homework hour. Even though my Spanish is not the best, I jumped at this opportunity. That night I got to know some of the most loving children I have ever met. They immediately wanted to know all about why I was there, how old I was and all the places I had traveled around the world. I can’t tell you how hard it was to leave them at the end of the two weeks. To me, the experience of living right next door and constantly interacting with these girls was something I will cherish forever.

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Playing volleyball on the hill above the Convent

What sticks out to me the most when I think back to my trips is the sense of community that I felt wherever I went. On our last full day in Peru a group of us decided to trek up the giant hill behind the convent. After laboriously walking for 30 minutes up the steepest hill I have ever seen, we stumbled upon something I never would have found back home. On a narrow dusty street separated by a cleverly strung net, the hilltop neighborhood residents, young and old, were pitted against each other in a raucous, competitive game of volleyball. We were strangers, and clearly foreigners to them, yet they didn’t hesitate to invite us into the fun. I think back to that time on top of the hill a lot and how close I felt to those people regardless of the fact we had just met. Despite what little they physically had, they were some of the warmest people I have ever met: what they lacked in materialism they made up for in community.

As I sit here writing this blog post my time with TSC is coming to an end. In the fall I’ll be heading off to college to start my undergraduate experience, focusing on International Studies and Latin America. TSC has not only given me valuable leadership tools I will take with me into the future but also an understanding of what it truly means to be a global citizen. Getting involved was easily the best choice I made in my four years at Garfield and TSC will forever have a special place in my heart.

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