Benedictine Exchange Students Visit SCARCE
Jul 29 2016
On July 26th SCARCE hosted a diverse group of about 20 undergraduate students from Benedictine University in Lisle. However, they weren’t your typical college-age volunteer group. These undergraduates were participants of the US Department of State Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Student Leaders Program and call countries in the Middle East and North Africa home. The MEPI program selects undergraduate students leaders from abroad for a 6-week summer exchange program in the US. The goal for these students is to develop leadership skills and increase their understanding of civil society and democracy and understand how they can be applied in their own communities. For the last few years, Dr. Jean-Marie Kauth of Benedictine University has brought the MEPI students to SCARCE to expose them to a successful non-profit making a difference in the community – something many of the students hope to do one day back home. At SCARCE, students volunteer and learn how passion and hard work can pay off.
This year’s students hailed from Algeria, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kurdistan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. Upon arriving at SCARCE the students were given a tour of the Book Rescue and the newly re-decorated upstairs offices by SCARCE Founder and Director, Kay McKeen. Throughout the program, Kay spoke with the students, telling them about the variety of projects that SCARCE has accomplished both locally, nationally and abroad. She also led discussions on similarities and differences in recycling, helping others, and green initiatives in the US vs. students’ home countries. Kay really enjoys getting to know the students and hearing about their interests and cultures.
The MEPI students were intrigued by the volunteers they saw at SCARCE and remarked that the culture of volunteerism that exists in the US is absent in their home countries. One student said he loved the energy there was at SCARCE – all the staff and volunteers were so dedicated to making SCARCE’s mission of education and resource conservation a reality.
SCARCE’s college interns were afforded a unique opportunity to work side-by-side with the students during their visit de-manufacturing binders, making Supercrayons, and sorting metals for recycling. Intern Harry Miles was even sung “Happy Birthday” in Arabic. When intern Jeff Gruba asked the students what they thought of the midwest, they said “It’s hot!” – they don’t have to deal with the humidity where they come from, they explained.
Before leaving, students were allowed to choose a few books from SCARCE’s rescue to take home – something that delighted them all. Many took great care to select the perfect books for themselves or a family member back home. One student explained that in her country, libraries only lend books for one day and they cannot be renewed.
The visit was enjoyable for MEPI students and SCARCE staff alike – a cool opportunity to interact with someone from a very different culture. Many of the students have goals to improve their home countries and find their trip to the US – and to SCARCE – inspirational and head home with plenty of ideas.