College of Education > News and Publications > News: Jan. - March 2012 > Humphrey Fellows Inspired by the Spirit of Volunteerism

Humphrey Fellows Inspired by the Spirit of Volunteerism

The 2011-2012 Humphrey fellows at Penn State have been taking part in plenty of activities.

by Wildamie Ceus (March 2012)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a semester behind them, and a little over one hundred days remaining until their program’s end, the 2011-12 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows at Penn State have fully immersed themselves in dozens of professional, academic, and cultural programs.

Their activities in the month of February alone included volunteer work around the community, visits to several local schools, university tours, a Skype session with Teach for America representatives, and a meeting with University President Rodney Erickson.

humphreyfellows.jpgAccording to the official program description, “The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program brings accomplished mid-career professionals from designated countries around the world to selected universities in the United States for one year of a non-degree graduate study, professional training, and work-related experiences.”

This year Penn State, which has hosted fellows every year since the program was established in 1978, welcomed 11 international professionals into the program.

They kicked off this spring semester by participating in the University-sponsored “Day of Service” to honor Dr. Martin Luther King. They spent the day at the Skills Adult Center with mentally disabled adults, doing arts and crafts. This event is one Jane Reese, the program assistant, said the fellows will never forget, as there is no such care in their home countries.

Inspired by this experience, several of the fellows have since ventured off to do individual volunteer work around the community.

Director of International Programs Leila Bradaschia explained, “The Humphrey Fellows are generally very impressed with the spirit of volunteerism that exists in our community. They are often used to people helping their extended families but not accustomed to community service activities that benefit people who are unknown to the volunteer.”

According to the program’s staff--Reese, Bradaschia, and Associate Director Talat Azhar--the Humphrey Fellows find something valuable in all of the activities they participate in.

Bradaschia says, “the active involvement of Humphrey Fellows in our community allows them to meet new people, learn about the Centre region, and gain a better understanding of the United States.”

She added that. “The fellows’ experiences allow them to bring back some new ideas they can refine and implement back home.”

On their many tours of different learning facilities, fellows are able to examine features as basic as building infrastructure to more complex features like student-teacher interaction and technology.

Rashid Turay, a lecturer of secondary school administration at Milton Margai College of Education and Technology in Sierra Leone, has been learning about early childhood education, higher education, gender issues, and teacher training during his fellowship. Turay says he is most impressed by the effective communication and transport systems in America.
“The libraries are very well equipped,” he said. “And I cannot imagine, in my country, ordering goods and it reaching my house. At home it would get lost on the way.”

In his time here, Turay has learned that reliable modern technology will be at the basis of educational reform in his country.

Diyaporn Wisamitanan, a lecturer of English at Thaksin University in Thailand, was an advisor to a volunteer club before participating in the Humphrey Fellowship. She said since coming to Penn State, most of the activities she has participated in have related to community development and volunteerism, as it is the mission of her university to encourage community engagement.

Wisamitanan has volunteered in over 15 activities on campus and around Centre County, including work at the Centre Crest Nursing Home, Thon, and Trash to Treasure.

“I really appreciate American volunteers and their volunteer spirits,” she said. “Therefore, I'd like to promote these values and bring this experience to apply to my university and community when returning home.”

At the same time, Bradaschia said the fellows can benefit the community as “the people they interact with learn about their cultures and the countries they come from.”

On a recent trip to Bald Eagle Area High School, the Humphrey Fellows hosted two ninth-grade world geography classes, discussing the current events in their respective countries with students.

In the coming months, the Humphrey Fellows will visit Penn College in Williamsport and the Washington D.C. cherry blossoms, will participate in several conferences and enhancement workshops, and will have their annual year-end retreat.