In order to give students the opportunity to confront human needs issues throughout the world, Wheaton founded the Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) program. By partnering with organizations worldwide, this program integrates classroom study with service-learning internships. I contacted current HNGR intern, Heather Kaufmann and asked her to share the experiences she is encountering in Bolivia:
As a HNGR intern these past 6 months, I have been living and working in Cochabamba, Bolivia with a non-profit called Mosoj Yan. My main project here has been teaching photography at a safe house for young women who have suffered abuse. I’ve also had the opportunity to do some qualitative research interviewing artists and art teachers in Cochabamba, and quantitative research on what life looks like for the ex-beneficiaries of the safe house.
A significant portion of my time here was spent learning how best to teach art therapy to teens—I have learned that empowerment, healing, and self-expression, at least in this specific case, are best achieved outside the classroom and that perhaps the best way for these objectives to be reached is for me to give my students as much freedom as possible. The photography class culminates this coming weekend in an exhibition of the girls’ best work, which I hope will bring home to them the message that their artwork has worth, and that by extension they do as well.
HNGR for me has been a time filled with personal and spiritual growth, language learning, relationship-building, and lots of heaping plates of Bolivian food. But more importantly, my time here has given me a deeper understanding of issues related to poverty and injustice, and furthermore my role in relation to them. Working and living with these issues gives them a different face—one that is more personal but also more realistic and complex. They are not easy issues to solve, but I think I am learning to rejoice in the small achievements and successes just as much as the big ones.