As director of community service for Rustic Pathways, I am passionate about working with our local partners to develop sustainable initiatives that have a positive impact for both the community and our students. I am proud to have the opportunity to provide inspiring experiences for our students, to challenge their perception of the world, to teach them about its interconnectedness, and to support them as they realize the role they can play in creating positive change across the globe.
Our organization’s strength lies in our local connections, and we harness these relationships to make long-term impacts in small, rural communities. We establish service projects in our communities either by working with local organizations or by developing relationships with the community itself. Working directly with a community or a local organization allows us to develop long-term partnerships. In this way, we can address a range of interconnected issues such as education, infrastructure, community health, income generation, and the environment.
To make our partnerships sustainable and effective, we hire local staff from the communities in which we work. These staff take on leadership roles with our student groups. They facilitate learning and enable true cultural immersion for our students. In this way, our students are able to understand the projects they are working on from the local perspective, as well as the complexities of international service and development. They are also able to explore different lifestyles, cultures, and global perspectives so that they can challenge their own values, and better understand what they offer the international community.
I strongly believe in the cross-cultural understanding and learning that takes place through community service work and the ability of our students to make meaningful contributions to community initiatives. Each year, I am energized by the work our students put into their service projects. I am inspired by their enthusiasm and drive, especially of those students who continue their service work at home, or even start their own initiatives. It is my hope that every student leaves our programs with greater global understanding, a spark of curiosity to continue learning about the rich diversity of this fascinating world we live in, and the drive to take an active role in creating positive change — in much the same way as my own high school experiences did for me.
As we continue to develop our service initiatives at Rustic Pathways, I will spend a lot of my time visiting project sites, leading trainings for our operations staff, and monitoring and evaluating projects. I will also oversee the development of new partnerships and projects to increase Rustic Pathways’ positive impact and provide new opportunities for us to support communities around the world. I am looking forward to getting out into the field again, forming relationships with our community partners, and working together to make our programs as effective as possible.
Ann is Rustic's former Community Service Director. Before stepping into that role, she was integral to our Fiji operations and the development of the Nasivikoso School in the Nausori Highlands.