World AIDS Day of Service is a collaborative, international service learning premier project designed by students at the University of Nebraska-Omaha through the offices of the Service Learning Academy and Dual Enrollment. Created and directed by a UNO student studying abroad at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, this project is the first of its kind at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The project offers a unique opportunity to intertwine the metropolitan cities of Omaha and Stellenbosch through the limitless potential of international service learning. Connecting K-12 and college students through distance education and classroom-to-classroom technology; the project provides a multi-layered collaborative and internationalized approach for confronting parallel challenges faced in each community, including poverty, health, and violence. The result is a groundbreaking, student led and community strengthened, cross cultural educational exchange of ideas, challenges, and opportunities.
This year’s project will focus on HIV/AIDS and the tragedy unfolding in South Africa where 5.7 million people are infected with the disease—representing the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world. While studying and serving in South Africa as part of a community engagement certificate program, the on-site student project leader will open a window between two cities and two cultures; raising awareness of the international HIV/AIDS epidemic and empowering students to address the crisis.
Culminating on December 1, 2009, after a semester of UNO-directed service learning projects; local high school and college students, community members and organizations from across the Omaha metropolitan area and Stellenbosch will come together to observe, learn, and serve on World AIDS Day.
Upon completion, student project leaders will present this pilot at national conferences to share with other institutions the model and implementation strategies. Further, they will discuss the “keys to leadership” in a student initiated project. Additional funds will be sought to institutionalize this program as one of the annual community engagement project frameworks for future international service-learning partnerships.