Integrating faith, civics, service, and global awareness in a high-school classroom
By Dr. Colleen Hall
On July 24, 2014, our son Ryan was born. After nine months of waiting and praying, and a long and difficult labor and delivery, my husband and I were overjoyed to welcome our healthy baby boy. And yet, I had this nagging feeling that the top-notch care that we received was far from the norm, especially for mothers and babies in developing countries. I felt compelled to do something.
In the 2015-2016 school year, I started teaching our Social Studies Department’s Women’s Topics elective, and I knew I wanted to incorporate a social action project at the end of the year. So, in the spring of 2016, we connected with Catholic Relief Services, learned about, and fundraised for a project called Mobile Motherhood. Focused on the needs of expectant and new mothers in rural India, Mobile Motherhood provides cell phones to new mothers so that they can connect with health practitioners whenever they have questions during pregnancy or in caring for their newborns.
In 2017, we Skyped with Dr. Nana Twum-Danso, the CEO of MAZA Transport and aunt of one of our students and soon-to-be-graduate, Annmarie Twum-Danso. Dr. Twum-Danso told us about the challenges for people living in rural, northern Ghana where roads are poor, access to transportation is very limited, and it can be very dangerous – even life-threatening – when residents need medical care in an emergency. We fundraised for MAZA as part of our class project.
This year, I wanted to maintain our connections with CRS and MAZA but also learn about other organizations working to alleviate some of challenges for people living in developing countries: basic food security, access to health care, infrastructure development, and access to education. This felt like a must for me as a mother, teacher, and woman of faith.
From February 24 through 27, I attended the ONE Campaign Summit in Washington, D.C. ONE is an international lobbying and advocacy organization of more than 9 million members dedicated to alleviating extreme poverty and preventable disease primarily in Africa. ONE is strictly non-partisan and focuses on such issues as food security, infrastructure development, and education for women and girls, while working to ensure greater accountability and transparency in how foreign aid is delivered. I wanted to learn more about ONE and how it could connect with my Women’s Topics class’s efforts around alleviating extreme poverty for women and girls. I attended briefings with diplomats and world leaders, and lobbied the Delaware congressional delegation on behalf of people living on less than a dollar a day. I returned to Padua with resources and ideas and arranged for Gordon Wong, a colleague from ONE, to visit my Women’s Topics class and share more about the organization with students.
On May 4 and 5, I attended the Dining for Women Conference held at the United States Institute of Peace. There I deepened my understanding of the challenges facing women and girls in developing countries and learned about an array of projects that Dining for Women supports through its chapter giving circles across the U.S. – including our chapter here at Padua! For example, in March, our DFW chapter fundraised for the Women’s Justice Initiative. This organization provides education, community advocacy training, and legal aid to women in rural Guatemala to eliminate violence against women and girls. In April, my Women’s Topics class heard a presentation by Peggy Smith, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Leader for Dining for Women. Over the summer, I will continue to volunteer with both Dining for Women and the ONE Campaign.
Coming out of these two conferences, I returned back to Padua with new ideas for getting students engaged as global, faith-inspired citizens. I plan to integrate content from both conferences into my Women’s Topics class next year, and invite students to advocate on behalf of our brothers and sisters (but especially sisters) in developing countries through advocacy, awareness, and fundraising. The integration of faith, civics, service, and global awareness has given me a renewed clarity of purpose and mission in the classroom.
Dr. Colleen Hall is a Social Studies Teacher at Padua Academy where she has taught U.S. History, Government, and Women’s Topics since 2012.