An update from Dr. Tom Tunks, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the RC 3 Community:

My wife, Jeanne, and I had an outstanding adventure last month in Quito, Ecuador; it foreshadowed the kinds of things we will enjoy doing with members of our residential community starting in the fall. Not that we will be going to Ecuador with the RC, but living with, and doing things with students completely outside a class setting is something we’re looking forward to.

The adventure was an Alternative Break trip sponsored by SMU. A group of nine students and the two of us spent about a week in Quito working with the children of people who are vendors in the various markets around the city. These are hard-working people whose daily lives revolve around their market activity. They begin their days very early (around 4 a.m.), getting produce, meats, poultry, fish, or whatever they sell, from distributors (unless, of course, they grow their own). Their children spend the day with them preparing for market and staffing their booths.

tunksABThere is an organization (UBECI) that arranges programming for the children in the markets, so they can have educational and fun activities for a while during their market day. The children range in age from toddlers to pre-teens, so the activities need to be widely varied. Although UBECI has permanent staff members, they rely on the services of volunteers from around the world to help with the groups of children. Games and songs covering vocabulary, manners, basic concepts, etc., along with puzzles and toys address the more elementary learning needs of the children. For older children there are reading and writing activities as well. Those who attend school get help with homework.

One of the best things about the AB trips is the SMU student groups themselves. Watching and participating in the group’s development is a blast. Living together on a daily basis provides insights into people that you just can’t get in the classroom. Working as advisers to the very able student leaders of the group is rewarding in itself, and to watch their leadership skills grow, even across a one-week time is fascinating.

From overcoming travel snags, to navigating strange new places and customs (and Spanish!), to seeing exceptional sights (water doesn’t spin down the drain when you’re exactly on the equator – it just dumps), to staying up late reflecting on the experiences, our own personalities, the world in general, the whole package creates a strong bond among all involved.

I can see many parts of the residential community experience being similar to that.

NOTE – If you get a chance to go on an AB trip – do it!