When President Barack Obama issued a call to action last March, Ivy Tech Community College–Northeast answered it.
His request, the Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, was sent to community colleges, universities and theology schools nationwide as an appeal for people of diverse faiths to come together and make their communities a better place.
Not only did Ivy Tech–Northeast respond, more than 260 other institutions of higher education did as well.
Ivy Tech–Northeast and the University of Saint Francis decided to collaborate with their yearlong, multi-activity plans. Their combined agenda sought to improve the visibility of Fort Wayne’s refugee communities and provide sweat equity on special projects that benefit them.
On Oct. 23, Cinema Center hosted two free screenings of Burma Soldier, a documentary featuring Myo Myint, a recent immigrant to Fort Wayne who also attended. The program debuted on HBO last May.
Myint enlisted in the Burmese Army at 17 in search of security, respect and employment, according to the documentary’s website. The Army he joined was that of a brutal military regime. It wasn’t until he lost an arm, a leg and several fingers to a land mine that he redirected his energies to the pro-democracy movement.
“Myo Myint thanked the community for welcoming the Burmese refugees, graciously answered questions and shared his current involvement with the pro-democracy movement,” said Cynthia Kumfer, interim chair of Ivy Tech–Northeast’s Early Childhood Education Program and co-chair of the college’s Service-Learning Team.
In a related event, guest artist Robert Gerhardt shared his photography essay, “Life on the Border: The Karen People of Burma,” with the public on Oct. 12 at USF. Gerhardt lectured on the subject after the exhibition.
The actual practice of service learning arrived with the schools’ Better Together Day of Service and Communal Potluck on Oct. 23. About 60 participants from the schools and the general public descended on Autumn Woods Apartments in Fort Wayne—home to dozens of refugee families—to volunteer on various construction, painting, gardening and general beautification projects.
“What really encapsulated my experience is that one of my students brought his 13-year-old daughter to help. They had an incredible time,” said fellow volunteer Daniel Hall, an Ivy Tech assistant professor of sociology.
The event culminated with an Islamic-permissible meal of chicken, rice and a yogurt dip for the volunteers, which was prepared and served by students in Ivy Tech–Northeast’s Culinary Arts Program. Many of the residents at Autumn Woods are Islamic Burmese.