Conway, Ark., June 3, 2014
Students on the Kosovo trip included:
- Reed Brewer, a junior from Little Rock, Ark.
- Sarah Eddington, a sophomore from Benton, Ark.
- Hanna French, a junior from Memphis, Tenn.
- Rachel Head, a senior from Nashville, Tenn.
- Andrew LeMay, a junior from Little Rock, Ark.
- Youmna Moufarrej, a senior from Shreveport, La.
- Sarah Partee, a freshman from Brentwood, Tenn.
- Isabelle Staines, a sophomore from Clarksville, M.D.
- Neelam Vyas, a senior from Little Rock, Ark.
Through a partnership with International Orthodox Christian Charities, students spent 10 days in Kosovo working to construct a youth recreation center with local Kosovar villagers and helping with infrastructure projects like drainage canals and freshwater wells. They volunteered at Majka Devet Jugovića, a soup kitchen and the vineyards at Visoki Dečani Monastery. Students also had the opportunity to visit ancient Serbian Monasteries dating back to the 14th century.
“We were able to work side-by-side with our Serbian hosts, whether by weeding vegetable fields, splitting wood, or picking up litter,” said Dr. Peter Gess, director of the Hendrix Odyssey and international programs and politics professor, who was the faculty advisor for the trip. Students were also accompanied by Shawn Goicoechea, assistant director of human resources.
While the activities were a large part of the trip, the social and cultural interactions left a lasting impact.
“I’ve never known a Hendrix student to let a language barrier stand in the way! This was most evident when the students interacted with kindergarten students in the classroom or older students on the basketball court,” Gess said. “It’s just very humanizing to interact community to community. It teaches all of us that we have a lot in common.”
“We had a great experience working with the Serbian minority communities in Kosovo. Many of the villages are self-described enclaves totally surrounded by Albanian Kosovars. In many cases the Serbs are not able to find work or trade goods in the larger Albanian communities,” Gess said. “It was indeed eye-opening to see so much discrimination in modern-day Europe.”
“We had an unforgettable time touring some of the country's 14th century monasteries, tasting some of its local specialties, and experiencing its strong sense of community,” said Neelam Vyas. “The most rewarding part of the trip was forging relationships with the many people we met along our journey. Whether it was the gardener we worked beside in the onion field or the kindergarteners who we taught the hokey pokey to, the people we connected with made our experience so rich.”
Students overcame the language barrier through “a lot of hand gestures and laughter,” said Vyas. “These moments made me appreciate the people of Kosovo in a much deeper way.”
Established in 2008, the Miller Center for Vocation, Ethics, and Calling provides resources and programming for Hendrix College students, faculty and staff to explore the work and life to which they are called, the vocation that will fulfill. For more information, visit http://www.hendrix.edu/millercenter/.
Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences education. For the sixth consecutive year, Hendrix was named one of the country’s “Up and Coming” liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report. Hendrix is featured in the latest edition of Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think about Colleges, as well as the 2014 Princeton Review’s The Best 378 Colleges, Forbes magazine's list of America's Top Colleges, and the 2014 Fiske Guide to Colleges. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit www.hendrix.edu.