Service and Study in Venezuela

Do your future plans include getting to know a Caribbean nation by studying its past and present and learning firsthand about its problems and future?  Does the idea of “making a difference” by travelling to the Third World, rolling up your sleeves and working with poor people excite you?  Do you long to broaden your cultural horizons by learning another language and sharing your knowledge of English with poor children?  Then the Venezuelan venue of HIS 243, Service and Study in Latin America is for you. Offered every fourth year in rotation with visits to three other Latin American countries, HIS 243’s Caracas destination features intensive, multi-disciplinary study of the country’s past and present, using the vantage points of several social sciences. We’ll examine history, politics, culture, race and class.  Our classroom seminars will critically explore the nationalist, populist policies of the nation’s fiery leader, Hugo Chávez, and include at least one visit by an expert from the Consulate-General.  We’ll screen at least two films that explore the country’s culture and politics.  And we’ll participate in workshops about teaching English, culture shock, team building and service learning. Then, during mid-May, we’ll travel to Caracas to really experience the country, its people and problems.

In Caracas, we’ll begin with a weekend visit to Macuto, the nearest Caribbean beach destination and a quaint fishing village.  In Caracas, we’ll visit historic sites, including the home of Simon Bolívar, “The Liberator,” famed for leading Latin America to victory in its struggle for independence.  We’ll take in a play at one of the city’s many theaters.  And on our last weekend, we’ll take an overhead cablecar ride to El Ávila National Park, for a spectacular view of the city.  In the evening, free time will be available for independent exploration, socializing, and partaking the city’s famous salsa dance scene. 

Our service venue is the Antonio Jose de Sucre public school, located in the Petare neighborhood. Petare is one of Caracas’ many barrios or shantytown neighborhoods.  Together, over half of the city’s 4 million people live in barrios.  On our first weekend, we’ll visit Petare. A community leader will host us on a tour of the area.  We’ll talk to residents and explore their views toward flamboyant President Hugo Chavez, whose policies have transformed the country and particularly, the lives of its poor.  Then for the remainder of our stay, we’ll teach English to Petare schoolchildren.  It’s not necessary to have experience teaching English: we’ll have a pre-departure workshop and will learn quickly through practice. On our last day, the children and their teachers will organize a cultural pageant in our honor and we’ll host an ice cream social, arrange for post-course communication.

Are you ready to challenge your attitudes about the Third World?  Do you long to “make a difference” by participating in a Peace Corps-like project, assisting poor people in other countries? Are you willing to put on work clothes and do several days of hard work alongside Venezuelans? If the answer to all these questions is “yes,” you’ve got the mindset and construction skills to join us!

Note: The Venezuela version of History 243: Service and Study in Latin America, is offered every fourth year, in rotation with our three other course destinations.  Check the Pace University spring class schedule under “History” to see if it is being offered this year. See what other students said after taking this course.  See you in Caracas—And Viva la revolución bolivariana!