Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Learn Africa Project

The deepest experiences of our lives emerge when our passion gives us not only the power to instigate change but also the opportunity to learn abundantly for ourselves. Through his passion for public health and international development, Trevor Mattos ’12, a Pike Scholar at Gordon College, created such an opportunity in Togo, West Africa, this summer. There Trevor collaborated between the nonprofit Clinics of Hope and the Biology Department at Gordon, developing The Learn Africa Project.

Living in the village of Ganave for two months with a small group of fellow Gordon students, Mattos, of Somerset, Massachusetts, worked to fulfill the project’s goal of researching and improving development in this West African community.
Mattos spent his days surveying village families about health and education, helping distribute preventive medications to children, building a three-classroom school, and experiencing life in a West African village. “We learned a lot just by spending time with people and hearing their stories,” Mattos recalls. “It was great just getting to know the villagers and their way of life."

Mattos’ powerful experience in Togo grew out of his fundamental interest in public health and its use in the wider worldideas fostered at Gordon. “Without my connections through Gordon College, this project would not have been possible,” said Mattos. Supported by his Pike advisor, Dr. Dorothy Boorse, associate professor and chair of biology, Trevor and his fellow students worked with multiple academic departments, including the Institutional Review Board, researching life in West African communities to prepare.

After months of preparation, the on-site work and research, and post-trip evaluation, Mattos is hoping to one day make The Learn Africa Project, or a similar opportunity, available for students interested in international development and public health in West Africa. Hoping to create a travel experience that combines formal research learning and informal cultural learning, he believes it would be an invaluable opportunity for others. “This was by far one of the deepest learning experiences of my life,” said Mattos.

Photo: Gordon College student Trevor Mattos ’12 traveled to West Africa to serve others while deepening his vocation in public health.

Story by Gordon student Rebekah Connell ’15, an English major from New York and student writer for the Office of College Communications.

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