Service learning during the Corona pandemic: acting responsibly more important than ever before
The Corona pandemic made it almost impossible for EBS students to continue their practical activities as part of the Service Learning Programme. The Service Learning module, which has been compulsory for all students since 2008, is a concept of socially engaged learning projects developed at the Centre for Business Ethics. With over 200 students helping out, it creates great social added value for the region and worldwide semester after semester. The EBS students got creative and actively looked for ways to continue to be there for their fellow human beings.
Dr. Marcus Kreikebaum, lecturer for ethics and service learning, summarises the semester:
The Corona pandemic has made many direct service learning projects at EBS Universität impossible this year. We have responded by changing our programme: Students now engage primarily with children and seniors through indirect services at our partner institutions. We have also expanded our e-mentoring programme and ensured support for refugees through food drives and digital craft and baking events.
Like all our mentoring partners, Ms Strobl and Ms Schwartz and their team from the Deutsche Kinderschutzbund (DKSB) are first and foremost committed to the children who live with fewer privileges than others. However, they have also been committed for years to imparting an understanding of social commitment and a sense of social interrelationships to our students. Since the EBS team was no longer able to participate in group educational support due to the Corona measures, they decided to support the DKSB through a fundraising campaign. Through appeals for donations and collection boxes, they have already been able to raise over 700 euros. EBS was also able to further support the Trafohaus in Wiesbaden-Sauerland and the Bethanien Children’s Village this year through small fundraising campaigns and other activities.
We were able to start a new service learning project with the Vincenzstift in Rüdesheim. This is about supporting the Lindenkino, which is run as an integrative business. The students have started a campaign to raise awareness and are currently shooting an image film for the cinema.
We were also able to support the Heimatlädchen Hallgarten, which, as an integrative business of the Lebensraum Foundation, represents a real alternative in the area of sustainable and socially acceptable food consumption. The EBS team was able to effectively support Ms Barbara Thiel and her team in the acquisition of new customers through several marketing campaigns.
In the area of food supply, students have continued to be involved with the tables and food banks in the Rheingau region, Wiesbaden and many other places in this difficult year. When the food bank in the Rheingau region were cancelled due to the pandemic, an EBS team with special permission from the Rheingau Taunus district collected the groceries themselves and took them to refugee families in Lorch and Bad Schwalbach. Students are usually confronted for the first time in these services with the hidden ecological and social costs of our current production and distribution of food. This not only leads to a deeper understanding of economic, ecological and social contexts, but also to a sustainable change in their own consumption behaviour in the sense of avoiding food waste.
The situation is particularly serious in old people’s homes. Due to the lack of technical infrastructure, senior citizens and the caring staff are completely isolated from the outside world, even digitally. Sabine Gotta and her team at Thomas Morus House have nevertheless actively sought contact with us and an EBS team now provides the residents there with small purchases, maintains pen-pal relationships and equips digital terminals for senior citizens with learning, game and entertainment programmes. Penpalships have also been started with Haus Hildegard and Haus Wilhelmine, with whom we continue to be in contact.
In the area of support for refugees in the shared accommodation in Lorch, Geisenheim and Bad Schwalbach, in addition to providing food, we were able to win over the “Mäcenas” foundation from Frankfurt to extend their project “Frauen kommen an” (Women arrive) to work together on professionalising the skills of mothers and single parents with a migration background in particular. In addition, the EBS team started a campaign with “Caritas” at the beginning of the Advent season. In order to stay in contact with the refugee families, utensils for handicrafts were bought and recipes were sent out. Since the beginning of December, the students have been meeting online via Zoom and Whatsapp with the people from Lorch and Geisenheim every Saturday afternoon to bake biscuits, make decorations and play bingo together.
Internally, we have also been able to advance the integration of international students through our SL programme. Students have organised a digital buddy programme with currently over 30 tandems between international and German EBS students.
In the area of international learning, our cooperation with our partners in Uganda and Benin intensified. Thanks to Dr Regis Guedozje, who is also a German language lecturer at the Ecole Superieur in Benin and at EBS Universität, we were able to organise, implement and evaluate around 20 e-mentorships between African and German students. Students get to know a young person their own age from another culture and exchange ideas about their goals, values and traditions. In weekly online meetings, they each agree on small steps in pursuing their goals and exchange information about success or failure. Ideally, both mentor and mentee should formulate small goals or projects and support and monitor each other in the implementation of these projects. The programme addresses particularly high-achieving and talented students who would like to continue their studies abroad and need assistance in applying for scholarships. Through this project, the student mentors gain not only insight but also practical experience in the use of mentoring as a tool for human resource development. They also learn about African culture directly through a person their own age. Not infrequently, this leads to lasting relationships that are maintained beyond the approximately three-month mentorship programme.
Thanks to Mr. David Windsor and Ms. Pros Katumba, we were able to win Makare University from Kampala, Uganda, one of the oldest universities in Africa, for cooperation with EBS Universität in the autumn semester. This autumn semester we are already running a pilot project with students from EBS and Makarere University, which we would like to implement at Master’s level next year.
Students have been working on aid projects with partners in Uganda since 2014. Our co-teachers are Moses Kiza from GoSmile Uganda e.V. and Sarah Bartlick and Lukas Heun from Helpcore e.V., who support a primary school at Lake Victoria. With Moses Kiza, the EBS teams have already founded several agricultural and urban micro-cooperatives. With “Give a goat”, for example, they are supporting local women’s communities in villages to set up a goat farm. With “Go Honey”, we were able to jointly found a new cooperative of around 70 families this year, who can now secure their livelihoods as beekeepers. Another EBS team supports a group of women in Kampala in the production of arts and crafts. These women fled the civil war in the north and want to return to their villages. Therefore, the team is also involved in building houses for the women, which were destroyed at the time. Overall, the situation in Africa is much more serious than in Germany because of the pandemic. It is therefore all the more important that we continue these cooperations next year.
We would like to thank all our partners and supporters, our students and look forward to working with them in the coming year!
Dr Marcus Kreikebaum