Learn & Serve: Summer Experience 2014 Wrap-Up

This summer, 605 students and individuals — from 31 different churches throughout 9 states — attended our week-long Learn & Serve Summer Experience. They began each week living in our Global Village, picking food from the village garden and cooking foods more common to the 10 countries represented (Liberia, Uganda, Nigeria, India, the Philippines, Nepal, Cote d’Ivoire/The Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Bolivia and Guatemala). 

Students enjoy preparing dinner in Cote d’Ivoire.

A student prepares dinner for her group in a house representing the Philippines in SIFAT’s Global Village.

Farm-to-Table intern Skye Beaty helps students harvest potatoes in the Global village to use in their meal.

Mealtime in Nepal is a group effort!



Students are paired with a counselor in one of the nine countries represented in the Global Village – Uganda shown here.

In the Global Village each week, participants learned about appropriate technology, which is defined as using resources that are readily available as simple solutions to problems that are impacting the world, like dirty water, smoke inhalation in the kitchen and malnutrition. Participants used those different technologies, such as solar cookers, fuel-efficient cook stoves, sawdust cookers and a hay box cooker, to cook their food. All of those ways of cooking cut down on smoke inhalation, which is the 4th leading cause of death in developing countries for women and children. Students learned to cook these foods with these technologies under the direction of our newest summer staff, the Farm-to-Table Interns, who helped students think about where their food comes from—the ground!—and why that is important to know.

Students enjoyed harvesting garlic chives, potatoes and onions from the Global Village garden with the Farm-to-Table interns.

Farm-to-Table intern Tyler Cottrell assembled a sawdust cooker with students and talked about the importance of fuel-efficient cook stoves that use materials that are readily available in the developing world.

Jimmy McKinnell and Skye Beaty, Farm-to-Table Interns, taught students to make their meals with a solar cooker, which harnesses energy from the sun for cooking, important in areas of deforestation where fuel is limited. It also emits no smoke, crucial in the developing world, where smoke inhalation is the fourth leading cause of death for women and children.

Caitlin Allred, Farm-to-Table Intern, teaches students about nutrition in front of the SIFAT garden.

Students and staff enjoy picking blueberries to eat fresh in the cafeteria all week during the summer.

Picking blueberries at SIFAT!

Students and their leaders also participated in the Urban Slum Simulation. This year’s simulation was based on Cite Soleil in Haiti and the life and struggles therein. We had Marc Jean and Franciscot Auguste on staff who are from Haiti. They helped the staff enact their different roles, depicting people involved in gang violence, suffering from HIV/AIDs, working as day laborers, selling fruit and jewelry, taking care of their families, and working to live in Cite Soleil. Marc and Franciscot spoke at the end of the simulation and answered questions for participants about Haiti and spoke with staff and participants of the reality that development and rehabilitation for Haiti needs to come from the people of Haiti themselves.

Students discuss how they will acquire their own food, water and shelter in the Urban Slum Simulation.

The Urban Slum Simulation exposes students to the challenges faced in the urban developing world, where 1 in 3 people live in an urban slum context.


Since students were introduced to thinking globally in the Global Village and Urban Slum Simulation, they were then encouraged to act locally within their communities. They worked together on team building within their local church groups on our low-ropes challenge course. Then, they were introduced to friends of SIFAT who are living and working in the surrounding community in Lineville, Ala., to get an example of what it means to act locally.  This year, students worked alongside the Ashland Street Department, visited with our friends in a nearby community and Lineville Nursing Home, picked blueberries at CCCA, and worked at Will’s Way.  After that, friends of SIFAT came to play soccer with students before evening worship in the Quonset Hut.

Students do team building exercises on the Challenge Course with their local church group toward the end of the week.

The challenge course provides a lot of fun and team building for church groups.

Students work together to get each student from podium to podium on this low-ropes course on SIFAT’s campus.

Students put their blueberry picking in practice on Community Day at CCCA, a local school near SIFAT.

Students play soccer with people from the nearby community as L&S participants finish their week at SIFAT.


The week at SIFAT concludes with soccer and a cookout with friends from the local community. This provides a great opportunity for students to spend time with friends they have made during the week.

This summer’s theme was “Blessed,” which was inspired by questions that the Learn & Serve Summer Experience raises, like, “Am I ‘blessed’ simply because I live in the United States and am not starving?,” “Is someone who is living in the developing world, who is having a hard time safely acquiring adequate food, water, and shelter, not ‘blessed’?”

A student studies scripture during teaching time at the Quonset Hut.


Addison Shock, who was Learn & Serve Program Director this summer, teaches from Matthew 5 on what Jesus said it means to be “blessed.”


The Quonset Hut, where students gather for worship, singing, teaching and fun in the evenings during the L&S Summer Experience.

Students singing at sunset in the Quonset Hut.

A student who brought his banjo to SIFAT joined in leading singing at the outdoor chapel.

Addison Shock did the main teaching and staff and counselors walked students through the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 5, where he speaks of counter-intuitive occurrences like mourning and persecution as blessings.  The goal in this teaching was a return to the idea of blessing as represented in the Bible, which appears to call into question our popular or cultural understanding of the word.  The goal was not to approach the subject negatively, but positively, identifying what Jesus did say and not what he did not say about what it means for his disciples to be blessed.  We discovered that Jesus was comforting his disciples, in his ‘blessed’ teaching, with the reality that He was with them in their suffering, persecution, humility or peacemaking because he also suffered, was persecuted and humiliated, etc.  Emphasis was placed on the evident desire of God to be with his people, identifying and educating them within the person of Christ.  Therefore, we came to the conclusion that a blessing is something that draws us closer to identifying with the person of Christ, and thereby living as God intended.

A student writes her name in her L&S booklet, where students get to read stories about SIFAT’s start in Bolivia and writings from our co-founders, Ken and Sarah Corson, on poverty and sharing God’s love in practical ways. This is also where students take notes during teaching and small groups.

This summer would not have been successful without the following:

SIFAT counselors prepare to greet students as they arrive!


Our four Farm-to-Table Interns love to teach about and eat their leafy greens!

Mary Corson, Campus Operations Coordinator, takes great care of making sure groups know everything they need to know before and when they arrive to SIFAT.

–Four Farm-to-Table Interns educated students on where our food comes from and why that is important.

–John Carr (SIFAT Agriculturist) and Mary Corson (Campus Operations Coordinator and Farm-to-Table Expert) made the Farm-to-Table interns’ fruitful work possible through their enthusiasm, organization and expertise.

–10 college-age counselors walked and talked with students as they wrestled with their experiences in the Global Village and Urban Slum Simulation and compared and contrasted those experiences with the idea of being “blessed.” These counselors also enacted characters in the depiction of Cite Soleil in Haiti in the Urban Slum Simulation.

–2 friends from Haiti, Marc and Franciscot, spoke about Haiti with students and were available to them all week to walk with them in their experience.

–2 Learn & Serve interns, who had been on staff for the entire year prior to the summer, Tim Pitts and Abbye Clevenger, helped plan the entire summer experience, managed the 10 counselors and made sure the counselors knew where to be, with what, and when to be there.

–1 worship leader/media coordinator paired songs of worship with the experiences and teachings of Learn & Serve and took pictures of the experience to share with leaders and participants on SIFAT’s Facebook Page. (insert link here?)

–A full cafeteria staff worked tirelessly under the management of Mary Corson to make sure we had healthy and delicious meals.   They also coordinated the food for the village and slum experience alongside the Farm-to-Table interns.

–Learn & Serve Director, Addison Shock, taught the curriculum and debriefed the experiences, as well as managing and coordinating the summer staff.

–Youth Leaders who desire for their students to grow through experiences like those offered through Learn & Serve.

–Staff and youth leaders, who love SIFAT and love their students, provided a great opportunity for youth in the United States to think globally and act locally, and to share God’s love in practical ways.


Students are the best part of the Summer Experience. Here, a student walks up the hill near the soccer field, where we end our week with a fun cookout and soccer game. He is wearing the “blessed” theme t-shirt for Summer 2014 that all students receive at the end of their week.