Students who will be traveling to Cambodia for this year’s service learning trip are currently enrolled in a preparatory practicum class. Throughout the semester and while in Cambodia, each student is required to write blog posts based on the material we are studying in class, our readings, our fundraising events, preparations for the service-learning trip, and experiences during the trip. The “Student Blog Entry” is a result of this educational requirement. This first series of posts centers on the learning that took place when students had the privilege of engaging in a virtual “Skype” discussion with Zara Zimbardo, co-founder of The White Noise Collective, professor at California Institute of Integral Studies, and an all-together invaluable resource for facilitating important dialogue around cultural humility. We hope you enjoy reading it and will offer your own thoughts and feedback.
“The More We Learn, The Less We Know”
By Joanna Loftus
It is an amazing phenomenon that the more we learn, the less we know. During the last semester we have been talking a lot about cultural sensitivity and what it means to be in the service of others. We all became a part of this project because we believe we can make a difference, but we often have to ask ourselves, how can we support human rights with understanding and respect to the Cambodian culture? As a group we are also struggling with the questions of how to communicate our ideas most effectively without exploiting the tragedies of Cambodian history, and how to know that, in a country where corruption is so prevalent, that the help we are providing is going to the right people? How we can make sure that we are not supporting another form of oppression?
Another question is: how can we prevent misunderstandings that can be caused by an insensitive choice of words or images? I began to wonder if by calling someone a victim if we are objectifying them or empowering them? And what about beautiful words like empowerment or healing? Is there an assumption behind those words that that person doesn’t have power of their own, or that there is something wrong with them if they need healing? Questions like this don’t have a definitive answer, but it is still important to keep asking them in order to be a culturally sensitive art therapist.
Zara Zimbardo, co-founder of The White Noise Collective and professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, who joined our last meeting virtually, brought another important question to the forefront: does cultural competency mean knowing everything about a specific culture, or does it mean using our critical thinking to find the political, economical, and ecological connections when looking at the international relationship?