The first sections of this paper will briefly describe the foundation and development, over a period of fifteen academic years, of an extraordinary number of successful student-led and student-run educational extracurricular initiatives in which university students created their own Peace Studies learning opportunities based on their house-building experiences with Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI). An enormous debt of gratitude is owed to HFHI for the inspirational nature of the poverty reduction, as well as the natural disaster mitigation and relief work, they generously allow university students to take part in, for their support of every aspect of the students’ participation from leadership training to finding safe transportation in foreign countries, and for their patience with the volunteers who often do not know what they are doing but are always confident that they know better.
Following the introduction of HFHI activities, the main discussion of the paper will consider some innovative student-led educational extracurricular activities (ISE-ECA) that have developed from the HFHI activities.
It is important to explain what is meant here by the term ‘extracurricular’. It is used in this paper in its common limited meaning to refer to activities which do not occur within credit-bearing courses. The expression ‘extracurricular activities (ECA)’ usually refers to sports, cultural, educational and volunteer associations within the university community in which students participate. However, in its broader sense, the university curriculum encompasses all educational policies and activities, both of an academic and non-academic nature, which occur within the university community.
Thomas Dewey believed that the key to learning is “the interaction of knowledge and skills with experience” (Ehrlich 1996). This paper explains why, in order to create an environment for that crucial interaction, certain so-called ‘extracurricular’ activities should be considered central to a university’s curriculum.
Habitat for Humanity International is a micro-crediting house-building NGO, established by Millard and Linda Fuller in 1976, which builds affordable houses for families, in developed and developing countries, who cannot borrow money for housing from banks and other money-lending institutions. The families pay back the cost of the construction of the homes into a house-building fund. Volunteer workers, who are required to make donations to the HFHI building fund, construct homes under the supervision of professional builders. Donations are also received from private donors and businesses (for descriptions of HFHI see Fuller 2000; Koppes 2007; Weir 2007).
HFHI makes annually renewable agreements with independent organizations of university students, called Campus Chapters, who regularly take part in the HFHI house-building programs. Overseas house-building opportunities for students are part of an HFHI Global Village (GV) program. The donations required from the student organizations are lower than from other Habitat working-adult volunteers (Habitat for Humanity 2012; Habitat for Humanity Japan). The current required GV donation for Campus Chapters in Japan is 40,000 yen for each student and teacher who takes part in an overseas house-building program which usually lasts from about ten to fourteen days. The students hold fund-raising events to pay for as much of the donation as possible for the group. The local HFHI organization in the community where the building work takes place organizes all the construction arrangements. These costs are covered by the donation. The local HFHI affiliate also facilitates arrangements for local accommodation, meals, transportation, and study opportunities. These additional GV costs plus the airfare from Japan to the overseas community, which usually range from 80,000 to 150,000 yen each, is paid for by the members of the group.
The Kyoto University of Foreign Studies (Kyoto Gaidai) HFHI Campus Chapter is an extracurricular student organization called a Circle, which, unlike student groups called Clubs, receives no funding from the university and is not given a permanent meeting room or storage room. The students are allowed to use university bulletin boards to post notices and they may use university rooms to hold events. A volunteer Faculty Advisor, the author of this paper, helps with these arrangements. Since its foundation in 1997 (Smith 1998; Smith 2000) the group has had an average of about fifty members each year.
Kyoto Gaidai Habitat (KGH) has held twenty overseas house-building events in the Philippines, Korea, the United States, Thailand, Nepal, Indonesia, India, and Bangladesh between the summer of 1997 and the spring of 2012. Some of the GV projects have been held in collaboration with Philippine, Korean, Thai, American, and other international groups of university students. In all cases, during the GV, the students from Japan have regular contact both with people who live in Habitat homes and with other members of the local community. From its inception, KGH has always been sensitive to the costs of travelling overseas and to other constraints on travel abroad faced by its members. Many KGH members never attend an overseas project. To compensate, the groups’ policy is to have many activities related to disaster relief and housing problems in Japan.
For each GV program, students hold planning meetings, study seminars, raise donation funds, arrange logistical matters with Japan and foreign HFHI staff, hold debriefing meetings on the teams’ return, and also organize photo exhibitions and public speaking events to raise awareness of poverty housing issues. The KGH students’ pre-and post-trip work and study require, on average, three meetings per week for three months before a trip and for one month after a trip.
In addition to GV events, KGH students sent, in 1999, three containers of relief goods to people in Kosovo in cooperation with students and teachers at the Canadian Academy international school. They have also sent funds to HFHI affiliates in other countries to build houses. They have funded one house in Sri Lanka, two houses in Thailand, and one disaster-relief shelter in Afghanistan when natural disasters made it impossible to send a house-building team from Japan. The students raised money to build a house in Thailand to celebrate the 1,000th house built by the Udon Thani Habitat group. In 2008 the students raised extra funds with the support of the Kyoto Gaidai Alumni Association to build a multi-purpose community hall as well as one family home in a resettlement area for victims of a combined volcanic eruption and typhoon natural disaster.
The group has raised money for a scholarship to send a young woman living in a Habitat house to a Nursing College for four years. Furthermore, students have visited local government offices, orphanages and local primary schools on each Global Village trip in which they made observations, interviewed teachers and staff, taught lessons, and held cultural exchange activities. In each case, the students made donations of school stationery and sporting equipment.
KGH has worked with the homeless in Japan and has engaged in disaster-relief activities in Japan following typhoons and earthquakes. Most recently, the group has been active in fund-raising and volunteer relief work in Tohoku after the Great East Japan Earthquake.
When the Kyoto Gaidai Campus Chapter was founded in 1997 there was only one other Habitat Campus Chapter in Japan, at Kwansei Gakuin University, although there were hundreds of student groups worldwide. Currently there are about eighteen active inter-linked Habitat groups at schools and universities in Japan. Japanese companies have also begun sending staff overseas on house-building trips (Habitat for Humanity Japan 2012). KGH students were instrumental in increasing the level of support for Habitat for Humanity International in Japan. Besides making presentations at teachers’ conferences, to JET program teachers, at high schools and to other groups, eight students served as staff members for the Jimmy Carter Work Project in the Philippines in 1999. Two Kyoto Gaidai graduates started the Habitat for Humanity Japan National Office.
The group has received two awards with grants from Habitat for Humanity International, a grant from the American Chamber of Commerce in Nagoya, two grants from the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies Alumni Association, and annual grants from the Kyoto Tachibana Soroptimist Club from 2001 to 2012. KGH and the United Nations Society received the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies President’s Award in 2007.
KGH students have been unique among student associations in creating innovative student-led educational extracurricular learning activities (ISE-ECA). In the fall of 2001, upon reflection on the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City the former President and executive committee of the KGH group started the United Nations Society. In April 2002 other members of the Habitat group formed the Picture Books group which was later re-named the Picture Books for Cambodian Children Circle. When first founded, these two new groups consisted entirely of KGH members; however, the groups now function completely independently.
In addition, KGH students piloted a new project called Japan Village in 2000. A group of students went to a public primary school on a Thai island with a population of approximately 350 people. The students taught Japanese language and culture while learning Thai language and culture for ten days. The Japan Village model was subsequently used in a variety of versions by the Picture Books for Cambodian Children group. In addition, the Japan Village concept was adopted in 2011 by the Department of Global Affairs as one of its off-campus, 4-credit programs.
Imagine Peace, a peace-building conference and a two-year-long series of events in 2007 and 2008 had six main events, one run by the United Nations Society and five run by KGH, in full collaboration with university teachers and staff. Over 4,000 people attended the various events and the fund raising for a number of charities exceeded the costs provided by the university.
The Imagine Peace event led by the United Nations Society was inspired by KGH: an Action-Plan United Nations Conference. A conventional Model United Nations Conference is a learning experience in which students, playing the roles of UN government delegates, follow the UN topics, procedures, and rules as closely as possible. In the Action-Plan UN Conference the students were friends of the people of United Nations member states and they made small-scale community-building action plans. The plans were presented to a selection committee of teachers and students and six of the plans were awarded 60,000 yen each. The students who formulated the plans had one year to carry them out and report on the results.
In 2009, the university adopted a similar concept for an annual student-staff-teacher collaborative program, called the Pikaichi Awards, in which students present small-scale action plans and request university funding. The students must report on the results within the academic year. In the first three years of the Pikaichi Award, many of the applicants were related to KGH and the groups it established.
KGH students also initiated a student-teacher-staff led and run innovation for the university’s annual Human Rights Week in 2008 in which students played the leading roles with the full support of the university’s Human Rights Committee.
In 2010 KGH students held a UNESCO Week with the focus on African developing nations. The UNESCO Week Student Executive Committee included students from each department and international students. The ten very low-cost events were attended by about 1,100 people.
Learning is not something that happens to students; it is something that happens by students (Zimmerman 1989: 21).
Interests in global education issues and community building activities are not unique features of the newer energetic campus groups described above. The many student-led, student-run educational organizations which contribute to Peace Studies include the Free Guide Club, the English Speaking Society, the Rotaract Club, the Scouts Club, and other academic research organizations. The Free Guide Club conducts grass-roots public diplomacy on a volunteer basis by guiding foreign tourists around Kyoto’s attractions. The English Speaking Society sponsors speech contests for high school students, the Rotaract Club (affiliated with an outside service club) visits homes for the aged. The older student groups follow long-standing traditions while the newer groups, described above, seem to be better at the implementation of innovative plans through the creation of new associations and projects which keep their groups’ activities up-to date with the evolving global issues.
The merits of innovative, as opposed to traditional, extracurricular learning ventures provide a starting point to consider related problems, criticisms, and challenges. In other words, if it is as easy to create new ventures, as it seems above, why are more people not doing it? One answer is there is tremendous difficulty in overcoming inertia to start anything new at universities; and when new educational truly student-centered ventures pop up, teachers tend to either try to take over ownership or ignore them. Some of the merits in helping students take charge of parts of their own learning on campus include:
The cost-benefit balance may be favorable to the university and to the students.
Links may be created between university courses and actual work situations.
Students may uncover interests which lead them to graduate school study.
Resources of knowledge and skills related to university study and jobs can be shared.
Quality of life on campus in educational ways may improve for the participants.
There is an increasing number of NGOs, and commercial enterprises, which would like to attract students to their study tours and community-building projects. There are some important issues that should be considered:
Linking with one NGO over a long period of time may result in a problematic virtual outsourcing of institutional responsibility.
It is not clear if, and how, outside organizations may be allowed to operate on campus through student groups.
Student activities may be negatively influenced by an NGO’s internal problems.
The recent commercialization of volunteer and other study tours outside of the mainstream educational institutions has given students a variety of unevaluated off-campus study options.
Student extracurricular organizations have a tradition of independence from university control and they engage in unsupervised projects.
There is no inherent value in student-led projects that assures independence will lead to greater commitment from members and more responsible management. These traits need to be nurtured.
Although HFHI is a Christian NGO and only a very few of the KGH members have been Christians, there have been no conflicts related to differences in values. One explanation is that KGH experiences get students involved in service learning, defined by Jacoby “as a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development” (1996: 5).
Kendall in her book, Combining Service with Learning, says if equality is an inherent part of the relationship between students who serve and the people they serve, i.e. “both the server and those served teach, and both learn”, the natural result of this dynamic is a sense of mutual responsibility and respect (1990: 22). Jacoby explains the foundation of successful models of service learning: “those being served control the service being provided. The needs of the community, as determined by its members, define what the service will be” (1996: 7). Thus, the learning needs of the students must meet the ‘served’ community’s needs and not the other way around.
The reciprocal relationships that result because the donor students are virtually helpless in the recipients’ culture seem to create a mutual development of empowerment in their combined community for the duration of the project through a sense of shared responsibility for success.
Understanding common characteristics of innovative student-led extracurricular activities (ISE-ECA) that have developed from service learning experiences can provide valuable insight into how university teachers and staff may encourage the creation, and facilitate the activities, of ISE-ECA. The following five characteristics, which are shared by the KGH-generated groups and activities, have shaped the students success:
ISE-ECA group members believe that it is of utmost importance that their activities are expressions of their own free will. The sincerity of their concern for the issues they are involved in is shown by the sacrifice of time, money and effort they make without expectation of personal gain in return. They are likely to be reluctant to engage whole-heartedly in any type of imposed volunteer or community work which is a component of required university study.
The formidable scale of the challenges that they undertake means that students are constantly engaged in discussion and debate over what to do and how they should do it. This tension created in groups that are not tradition-bound may lead to interpersonal communication problems, but ultimately, to the establishment of new groups and projects.
ISE-ECA groups often link with people and organizations outside their own university to implement their plans. Linking with outside groups, especially similar student groups at other universities, has a synergetic potential of adding breadth and depth to the collective pool of knowledge and experience, and this has tended to reduce the power gap and thus facilitate constructive partnerships between student groups and outside organizations.
The experiential learning of issue-driven ISE-ECA makes it necessary for students to develop the capacity to efficiently and effectively regulate their own activities.
Members face a considerable amount of criticism from their peers. Many students simply do not care about ISE-ECA issues and groups sometimes struggle to attract new members and participants for their events. Their activities are said to be unproductive because of the complexity and scale of the problems and the imperfect small-scale solutions that students are able to implement. The outside criticism, added to their own awareness of the challenges, tends to encourage critical thinking.
The fact that students face, because of their commitment to Service Learning, intensely personal challenges that demand analysis lies at the heart of the difference between ISE-ECA and other groups which carry out ECA.
Critical thinking is self-directed in that the thinker must be calling the shots. We wouldn’t give a student much credit for critical thinking if the teacher were prompting every step he took (Willingham 2007: 11).
Critical thinking is by definition independent but not necessarily individual in its development and exercise. Teams of students in extracurricular projects from various departments and of different academic capabilities may engage productively in critical thinking about matters of intense common interest. Sumner (1940: 632-633) says critical thinking is “the examination and test of propositions of any kind which are offered for acceptance, in order to find out whether they correspond to reality or not.” Sumner claimed a central place for critical thinking in education and in society because he said it is “our only guarantee against delusion, deception, superstition, and misapprehension of ourselves and our earthly circumstance.”
Sumner’s definition is relevant to the daunting challenges of ISE-ECA. When members of the United Nations Society represented Cambodia at a Model United Nations Conference in New York City, they found that on certain economic development issues the information varied according to whether the source was the Cambodian government, the United Nations, or an NGO. Students conducting research in conventional programs may have exactly the same experience; however, the MUN participants feel a personalized immediacy in sorting out the information that will form the content of competitive negotiations with other students. Thus, their own personal views may develop in tandem with the different views they struggle to express persuasively as representatives of a government.
The Habitat group had the painful experience of providing support to an orphanage in north-eastern Thailand which was later closed by the provincial government because of possible cases of child abuse and financial misappropriation. This particular orphanage had also received considerable financial aid for building classrooms and a dormitory from the government of Japan. The students attended a debriefing session on this matter at the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok and they also had an opportunity to ask Ambassador Akashi, the former United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, for his views on monitoring the use of aid. The usual way we have of getting students engaged this intensely in learning is through internships which usually involve long absences from school and are available only for a few students on a one-at-a-time basis.
Several times over a period of four years the PCC group visited a relocation settlement in Cambodia, an hour’s drive from the capital city, which could be described as a squatters’ slum with inadequate housing and no land ownership rights, unsafe sanitation, poor security and few accessible employment opportunities. The people were moved from an urban area which was to be commercially developed. The students were able to talk to people faced with making hard choices: settlement residents, urban developers, and NGO representatives seeking to establish adequate security, sanitation, education and transportation infrastructure systems for the settlement’s people.
An analysis of these learning experiences demands critical thinking skills (see Paul et al. 1990; Smith 2010) such as the development of intellectual humility in order to suspend judgment, the development of intellectual perseverance, skill at refining generalizations to avoid oversimplifications, the evaluation of the credibility of sources of information, and the ability to distinguish relevant from irrelevant facts in order to explore implications and consequences.
The discipline needed for analytical thinking often goes hand-in-hand with an interest in regulating one’s own learning experiences. For the ISE-ECA, self-regulated learning (SRL) is defined as learning which students engage in to accomplish independently-set team goals by engaging in team-selected learning activities which the students deem to be appropriate to reach their goals. Their SRL occurs outside of class on the university campus and outside of the university.
The fact is that in our schoolmaster models of education, particularly at universities in Japan, we have few experiences that prepare teachers and students for SRL. How do students become masters of their own learning processes?
Boekaerts, Pintrich and Zeidner (2000: 753) stated that self-regulated learning (SRL) involves:
goal-setting, strategic planning, use of effective strategies to organize, code, and store information, monitoring and metacognition, action, and volitional control, managing time effectively, self-motivational beliefs (self-efficacy or the belief that one has the ability to succeed, outcome expectations, intrinsic interest, and goal orientation), evaluation and self-reflection, experiencing pride and satisfaction with one’s efforts, and establishing a congenial environment.
There is consensus in the SRL literature with Boekaerts’s definition that self-regulated learning depends on students being independently willing to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills and also on their being able to sustain their motivation over long periods of time with self-satisfaction being the main reward (see Blumenfeld and Marx 1997; McCombs and Marzano 1990; Woolfolk et al. 2009). The nature of SRL challenges is formidable, as described by Schunk and Zimmerman: “the process whereby students activate and sustain cognitions, behaviors, and affects, which are systematically oriented toward attainment of their goals” (1994: 309).
Pressley and McCormic (1995) surveyed studies which showed that although SRL strategies taught in classes could be effective in producing superior learning, students seldom used the strategies spontaneously in non-experimental learning contexts, such as when studying at home. An explanation may be that experimental contexts are a short-step away from conventional teacher-directed learning, at least in the students’ minds. Indeed, in classroom teaching, teachers hope to create the ideal SRL environment where students generate the ideas, feelings, and behaviors required to reach their group’s learning goals (Zimmerman and Schunk 2001). This is exactly what students are achieving on their own in the projects described in this paper.
Zimmerman (2008) says that we need to find out if successful SRL will result in improved academic performance. However, the argument here is that educational extracurricular projects may be deemed successful, regardless of immediate impact on individual academic performance, because a greater number and a wider range of students may acquire eventually applicable SRL skills through team learning.
How can SRL behavior be identified in ISE-ECA? It may be helpful to consider the following list, adapted from Torrano Montalvo and Gonzalez Torres (2004: 3-4), of the distinguishing characteristics of ISE-ECA teams who successfully engage in SRL:
They are familiar with, and know how to use, a series of cognitive strategies which help them to attend to, transform, organize, elaborate, and recover information related to their activities.
They know how to plan, control, and direct their mental processes toward the achievement of ISE-ECA team goals.
They show a set of motivational beliefs and adaptive emotions, such as a high sense of team self-efficacy, the adoption of team learning goals, the appropriate sharing of positive emotion towards tasks (e.g. joy, satisfaction, enthusiasm, concern for others), as well as the capacity to control and modify these emotions, and adjust them to the unique requirements of their particular team.
They plan and control time and effort to be used on tasks, and they know how to create and structure favorable learning environments, such as finding suitable places to work. They seek help from faculty advisors and teammates when they have difficulties.
They make great efforts to participate in the control and regulation of target tasks, team atmosphere and structure.
They are able to put into play a series of volitional strategies in order to maintain their concentration, effort, and motivation while performing academic tasks.
According to McMahon and Oliver (2001: 1304), SRL is “teachable” and not tied to intangible, and perhaps unalterable, concepts such as intelligence (Symons, Snyder, Cariglia-Bull and Pressley 1989). Efforts to apply instructional strategies for facilitating the development and growth of self-study skills into sophisticated SRL skills may be best supported by the students’ own collaborative efforts and reflective thinking (see for example Symons et al. 1989). SRL may, indeed, be a pre-requisite for successful ISE-ECA teamwork.
Senge, in discussing how any purposeful organization in the twenty-first century must become a learning organization, i.e., an organization capable of learning, states:
The organizations that will truly excel in the future will be those that discover how to tap people’s commitment and develop the capacity to learn at all levels in an organization. Deep down, people are learners (1990: 1).
How can faculty advisors learn to play a useful role in the development of student-led educational extracurricular activities?
Curricular activities have a high degree of teacher control even in learner-centered approaches to teaching because of the responsibility teachers have in credit-bearing courses. In contrast, many university ECA activities are completely student-led and student-run. However, in order to develop the full educational and job-skill building potential of ISE-ECA, teacher mediation may be constructive. The following guidelines are suggested:
Clarification can be provided by teachers to students on the potential of ISE-ECA for field research and action plan research. Some students may be able to draw on their experiences to select related research topics and then find opportunities in their activities to gather data for graduation theses and research projects. Students need support in putting together questionnaires, conducting interviews, and identifying sources of data in the field which may be unavailable elsewhere.
Opportunities to engage in field research are currently under-exploited. However, some ISE-ECA students have completed graduation theses by combining field research surveys with text research on topics such as pre-school literacy programs in Cambodia, Japan’s position on reform proposals for the United Nations Security Council, and the Grameen Bank and HFHI micro-loan repayment programs.
Clarification by university staff, teachers, and working graduates of the potential of ISE-ECA for the development of job skills may be useful. Students can be helped to see how explanations of the training potential of experiential learning projects in the job search process may help them gain employment.
Students need guidance on the effective presentation of ECA experiences. Students often briefly and simply describe their ECA, for example, as volunteer work, without an analysis of how the experience may be relevant to job performance.
Students should be permitted to retain a strong sense of ownership of their groups. Outside organizations should be helped by faculty advisors to understand that ISE-ECA groups do not work for them but with them in temporary partnerships. Academic freedom for students to freely evaluate the work of NGOs and other organizations they work with should be respected.
There are two problems in linking with NGOs that faculty advisors may be able to alleviate. Study tour, and volunteer tour, groups, either made up of unconnected individuals or of groups of friends, may be satisfied with their own internal interaction. This means that the educational value of such tours is often not critically evaluated. On the other hand, even NGOs with good educational programs may have no effective means of dealing with inappropriate behavior on the part of students who join their programs.
Guidance in the practical business of running projects may be usefully systematized. Skill areas of crucial importance include culture-specific intercultural communication, team-building, financial management, risk management, problem solving, and critical post-project analyses of the projects.
An important example is a long-term supportive supervision of financial management policies that faculty advisors could offer student groups which usually have an annual turn-over in leadership. This is especially important for groups which receive money from the general public. There is less pressure, but an unavoidable responsibility, to account for the proper use of funds even without identifiable donors.
Another role for faculty mediation is revealed in the different interests of faculty advisors and student groups in the selection of partner organizations. After a successful project, teachers may wish to establish a long-term relationship with that facilitating organization in order to develop sound risk-management practices. In contrast, student leaders, in their strong desire to promote team-building unique to their new team, tend to seek out new partner organizations.
In the case of KGH, this means that students may decide to go to an unfamiliar location to work with a local Habitat organization of unknown capabilities. A faculty advisor will likely prefer to repeat projects in which the local partners, their building practices, accommodation, food safety, the transportation, and health care facilities are known.
Attention should be drawn to relevant Human Rights issues; for example, awareness of the rights of vulnerable orphans and street children is not generally understood and teachers and staff who are experts in human rights may be able to offer guidelines for contact with children abroad.
In particular, the issue of privacy regarding the taking, and making public, of children’s photographs is not well understood. It is currently fashionable for students to want photos of themselves with poor children in developing countries. When confronted by protective organizations which deny or restrict access to children, students may be confused because of an unfortunate assumption that rules or common sense practices that apply in one’s home country do not apply in communities afflicted by poverty.
Faculty advisors may find useful roles, as mediators, which are in keeping with university responsibilities, without depriving students of the ownership of ISE-ECA.
Higgins, a Duke University student, described the motivation of students engaged in volunteer service learning projects:
Students need opportunities to put their love into action. And students are increasingly proving that they are idealistic enough to dream, compassionate enough to care, and responsible enough to act (Fuller 2000: 282).
Robert Coles discussed the prevalence of student idealism and how teachers should respond to it. “How should I be living my life? That is the question I keep hearing my students put to themselves” (1993: 285).
Today, university teachers in Japan are worried that idealism, particularly among undergraduate students, is uncommon and when Coles’ question is heard, teachers fear that it is not a reflection of idealism and a readiness to begin a search for meaning in their university study, but rather an expression of confusion and of disinterest.
An important role for teachers is to create environments in which undergraduates will go beyond settling for satisfaction in their campus lives and come to question the meaning of their academic lives. It is expected that satisfaction can be found in successfully completing programs of study, in membership of student sporting and cultural associations, in part-time job experiences and in other aspects of university life. Indeed, all these ways students find of adding value to their lives may have impacts similar to that of KGH. In whatever manner, students find quality of life by creating their own learning opportunities, we need to listen to them talking about their experiences, and learn.
In one important way KGH stands alone. It has been an innovative force in the creation of other student associations and projects, ISE-ECA, which are directly linked to their academic lives. Why is this so?
The first KGH president, Mariko Asano, said:
The Habitat experience is big, personal, and emotional. We are not so sure just what it means to us, but it feels right. It pulls you together somehow. You get a feeling you are going in a new direction. It is hard for us to express it more clearly but it is not a feeling of confusion or uncertainty. We realized Habitat had changed us. We had learned something that was not going to be unchanged (Fuller 2000: 91).
What kind of experience is Mariko Asano talking about that gives students the sense that they are at a turning point in their lives? The following story is typical of the sense the students have of being involved in important matters.
KGH took part in building a village of houses at Asamba in the Philippines. On that building site, the shacks of squatters had been demolished by bulldozers in the middle of the night while the families were sleeping, the president of the community was shot and killed, and a baby died in a tear gas attack. A mother’s group, claiming human rights had been committed, occupied the City Hall with their children until they won the cooperation of the city government and secured a partnership with Habitat in restoring their community with legal rights to their homes. The following is a text of a speech made by Junko Kaga, a KGH student, at a meeting with the community leaders at Asamba:
Before I came to Asamba I had this thought. If what I can do is only a small thing for the vast number of people in need of houses, I should just let their lives go on the way it is and not confuse them. I believed my hands were too small to do something so big but now I am here. I see people living lives strong, lively and bright. I have heard the unbelievable history of Asamba. The heroic women of Asamba have made me a more powerful woman. Even though small hands cannot do big things, I understand now that great things can be done with a big heart.
Invaluable learning may come from face-to-face, face-to-place, face-to-event experiences that put students in intimate and intense contact with people committed to matters related to their studies. This is why we invite guest speakers to campus and why we arrange internships. However, the fire can easily go out if we reduce the intimacy of contact with special guests by arranging for large audiences and requiring attendance. Internship success is also a hit and miss affair when universities relinquish responsibility for their own students’ education, instead of sharing it with outside organizations.
Why has the KGH experience led to innovative student-led educational extracurricular learning activities? The differences between their campus lives and the GV experiences are extraordinarily great and tough intellectually, emotionally and physically. Consequently, over the years the following patterns in GV participation have evolved:
The students’ approach is a ‘handmade’ one. They make by hand all task symbols such as banners and team t-shirts, gifts, teaching and cultural exchange materials. This approach involves each member and the priority is on building team ‘membership’ rather than team ‘leadership’.
Self-regulated learning in planning and follow-up, along with self-discipline during the implementation of their plans, transforms the event from mainly a social excursion into an educational venture.
Building a house is itself an inspiring and satisfying experience for people who have never had such experience and never realized the do-able but difficult nature of solving housing problems.
Building houses with the people who will live in them is a humbling experience. Students see themselves as learners and the recipients of their aid as their teachers.
Close contact in the ten-day intensive program with local community leaders and families, public school teachers and students, municipal government officials and workers allows for problems to be viewed from multiple perspectives. Critical thinking is a natural consequence.
At this time when we face formidable global political, economic, and social challenges and because we have new opportunities to get involved in matters of global import, we need to create opportunities for students to take responsibility for their own education. Teachers need to be part of these learning experiences.