Students reflect on Central American spring break

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    A group of TCU students who traveled to Panama over Spring Break shared their experiences at a town hall event Wednesday afternoon.

    TCU’s Discovering Global Citizenship program sent a group of 16 students from multiple disciplines to Panama City to spend a week working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The aim was to help TCU students become better global citizens.

    Three of the 16 students who went to Panama, Nikki Woodward, Jimmy Greene and Amy Otte, discussed what it was like to work side-by-side with NGOs in an interdisciplinary setting.

    Otte, a junior accounting major and Spanish minor said solving problems is hard, but that solving them in the context of an interdisciplinary project is challenging and rewarding.

    “It really was, as far as TCU learning goes, a great experience to struggle through some of that interdisciplinary stuff,” Otte said.

    The NGO Otte worked with, Voces Vitales, is a nonprofit that promotes participation of women and promotes their education, health and equal access to opportunities for deep social transformation, according to their website.

    Otte said this helped her understand that sustainability isn’t simply about thinking green, but it can pertain to social issues such as the ones Voces Vitales focus on.

    Greene, a sophomore environmental science major, had similar thoughts after working with Wetlands International, an NGO which aims to sustain and restore wetlands, their resources and biodiversity.

    “While we were there [in Panama] I think one of the major things we learned is how the word sustainability has multiple definitions,” Greene said. “We had three different groups that worked with different organizations but each one focused on a different form of sustainability.”

    Greene also said by working with Wetlands International and with individuals across multiple disciplines, he was motivated to work toward the NGO’s mission.

    “People need to try to create sustainability wherever they can,” Greene said. “By having a very interdisciplinary group, we are able to use each other’s ideas and kind of see how we can come up with a great plan of action.”

    Junior accounting major Nikki Woodward worked with Cathalac, an organization focused on tackling watershed management, climate change and other sustainability issues.

    Woodward said the highlight of her trip was designing and testing an “air-flushing” toilet.

    “We got to mess with toilets,” Woodward declared.

    Woodward said the task of designing the toilet included creating a replacement for biological waste, in this case a flour and water mixture.

    What amazed her most about the experience was that keeping the product simple is what made it all work in the end.

    “We tried flushing with the air pressure turned all the way up, and noticed some of the flour and water was left behind,” Woodward said. “So we turned the air pressure down and realized that a little bit went a long way.”

    Wednesday’s town hall, attended by dozens of TCU faculty and staff members, will hopefully motivate them to get involved with the Discovering Global Citizenship program, said Jane Kucko, Associate Dean for University Programs and Director of the Center for International Studies.

    “I hope to gain that the faculty and staff see we need them to be involved in Discovering Global Citizenship and the kind of opportunities that are available for them.” Kucko said.