Thirty students at Brigham Young University are about to enroll in Global Citizenship 101.
On Sunday the students will travel to the Altiplano region of Bolivia where they will spend two to three weeks working on several projects aimed at improving life in two villages. They will also spend time observing environmental problems faced by underdeveloped countries.The trip to Bolivia is the culmination of a yearlong class in environmental biology and policy taught by professors Sam Rushforth and Gary Bryner.
"The primary thing that will happen is we will all have a much greater appreciation for the challenges that people in less-developed countries face and also a greater appreciation for the things that they are able to do," Bryner said.
The Altiplano region exemplifies the dovetailing of poverty and environmental degradation, Rushforth said.
"Solving world poverty is how we are not only going to help the environment but make the world a safer place," he said.
While there's been plenty of book-learning during the year, students have also had ample opportunity to put the concepts and principles espoused to work.
They participated in a reforestation project in Arches National Park, raised $3,000 for UNICEF, provided Christmas for needy people, planted trees, gave workshops on environmental issues in local schools and lobbied the Utah Legislature on behalf of a bottle recycling bill.
"We hope that everybody in the class will develop a lifelong commitment to getting involved and solving community problems," Bryner said.
In Bolivia, the students will travel to Viacha and Ayamaya, two villages located near Lake Titicaca. The trip is being organized by CHOICE, a non-profit charity in Salt Lake City.
The students will work on several projects: construction of a child survival center, completion of a new high school building and digging hand-pumped wells.
During the visit the group will live in the buildings under construction or with villagers.
Student Alison Wiltbank welcomes that opportunity.
"I think it is a fantastic opportunity to work with other people, to learn from them and come to understand them," she said.
Michael Marlow, who is completing a MBA at BYU, considers the class and trip to Bolivia the "capstone" to his educational experience.
"I think it is part of the whole trend we're going to see in the '90s," Marlow said. "People got tired of being self-satisfying. People are wanting to reach out and help other people."
About 75 percent of the cost of the trip is being covered by the honors department at BYU. Students sponsored a number of activities, including an ongoing project selling T-shirts, to cover remaining costs. They also are raising money to contribute to building costs of the projects they'll work on. Local contributors to the projects include Nu Skin and Blaine Hudson Printing.
Others interested in contributing to the project may contact Rushforth at 378-2438.