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Service learning (SL) is a teaching strategy that brings together community engagements and curricular aims in reflective processes (Peters 2012). The element of SL does not replace academic learning and civic service but rather compliments both by improving their quality. SL benefits both the giver and the recipient of the service while still focusing on service and learning as opposed to experiential learning and volunteerism as pointed out by Furco (2003). It inculcates high academic performance and polishes critical thinking skills. It also enabled me to apply the classroom experiences in a real life situation.
Counseling in a Refugee Camp
My Service Learning was in a refugee camp covering the area of counseling. To start with, the refugees were not a welcoming lot. The kind of experiences they had gone through made them keep to themselves. At this point, I had to use appealing tactics learnt in class. SL succeeds when it is put on the actual ground (Judge 2012). By the second day, the barrier was eradicated and then came the hardest part in my assignment which involved doing group as well as individual counseling among the refugees. Their initial thought was negative. It called for more skills which I applied without tiring. Finally the stage was set and the sessions moved on quite smoothly.
The counseling dealt basically on moving forward and staying clear of past experiences. In a few weeks the refugee school registered high enrolment as parents decided to have their children educated. More refugees registered for job opportunities at the camp while others expressed willingness to go back home to start life afresh. This was a clear indication that the SL had benefited the recipients. Education should be used to improve the society (Roy and Alex 2012). On my part the service experience only meant that I came out a better person in knowledge than before.
While doing the service, I learnt that there may be slight differences between what is learnt in class and the real life situation. However, by bridging these differences, quality is enhanced. Academic learning and community service are never complete without SL. The latter is not an interference but purposeful interlude.