7 Elements-Ethical Service Learning Program for Students

7 Elements

Why choose 7 Elements?

7 Elements is an Ethical Service Learning Organization with programs Dominican Republic, Belize and Peru. We provide experiential learning through hands on sustainable development projects and curriculum designed for each program that focus on international development, service learning, and human security issues around the world. We partner with universities, individual travelers and other groups.

Our primary focus is to educate young leaders about systemic issues, inequalities and social justice dilemmas that are occurring globally. We accomplish this through holistic community relationships in our partnering locations where we perform community diagnostics and a carefully planning community engagement strategies that focus on reciprocity and heightened learning. Our program participants are encouraged to fully immerse themselves with both hands on and reflective activities that challenge the perspectives they had when arriving on our programs. Visit 7elements.global to learn more


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Yes, I recommend this program

Experience of a Lifetime

I was more than excited to be with 7 Elements in Peru with my students and it did not disappoint. The overall process to get our program set up was easy to do. Crystal played a huge role in making the experience of setting up the program, very easy. Once in Peru, Ben and Ruth were the absolute best. They made my students comfortable, they made me feel comfortable and I never felt like something was going to go wrong. My students learned so much about the Peruvian culture, not only from a tourist stand point, we were deep in the amazon spending time and building relationships with the Yanesha people. I would do this over and over again, for sure. Our students have come home thinking about how they can continue to learn and support our new community!!

What would you improve about this program?
There is nothing I would improve about the program. Everything went very well.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Comprehensive Opportunity to Learn about Native Yanesha and Peru

The Native Yanesha service project is an extremely expansive opportunity to experience a native culture, understand their current circumstances as well as learn about the entire region's current life and history. The trip is well balanced between actual work days and travel to the surrounding area's flora and fauna. As guests, we were extremely well cared for with transportation, lodging, and food. The educational programs complimented the work days providing background and current issues. The leader was extremely attentive to our person suggestions and made adjustments that suited the group. The project is part of a larger continuum of support for the community and it is very satisfying to be part of an ongoing project that is sustainable and has a long term commitment and relationship.

What would you improve about this program?
Having participated in numerous programs, the only recommendation is receipt of travel information or notice of its receipt just a bit sooner prior to travel date.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible organization; incredible people

I have worked with several humanitarian organizations and none have been like 7 Elements. Instead of feeding the "White Savior" narrative, they introduce themselves into the communities, and work with them to fix their problems in the communities in a sustainable way rather than putting a band-aid to them. They are looking to get work done and can be demanding for some, but it's an experience like no other (including their awesome excursions!).
Their team (Cameron, Sara, Kate, Wilmer, etc) were fantastic. They were very attentive and flexible to our needs or any changes in our time there. The food was incredible and they made sure we were always hydrated! (key to surviving the Caribbean heat)
This was my first trip with them and see myself working with them in the future.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Soursop!! Delicious fruit! A local worker gifted me one and got it from a tree in his yard. You can't find it everywhere so try it if you get a chance!
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Yes, I recommend this program

7e is the best!

7 Elements offers students a new perspective on how to have a sustainable impact on the world and how to be a global citizen. They focus on education as well as service, which I believe sets them apart from many other organizations. The things that students learn on the trips are meaningful and inspiring. The trips are also a good mix of fun and work. Some of the work days can be physically demanding, but 7e does a good job of balancing this out with fun excursions like snorkeling and swimming at the beach. In addition, 7e's staff is extremely supportive and makes sure that each student is happy and comfortable. I have traveled with 7 Elements two times and each trip I have come home with a stronger passion for global development and an increasing need to share what they have taught me with others.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Bring lots of bug spray! It can get very buggy at night.
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible Program! Highly Recommend!

I attended 7 Element's Belize program through a college chapter of 7 Elements, and it was one of the best abroad experiences that I've had. From the get-go, 7e staff were very helpful with our flights and program planning, and we were able to tailor some of the night time global health/human security discussions towards our club's personal interest in sustainable agriculture, ecology, and understanding the historical context behind some of the country's socioeconomic disparities. We stayed in beautiful Hopkins, but were working primarily on sustainability projects and community needs assessments in two Maya communities in central Belize (Medina Bank & Indian Creek). We also spent a day working with the local school in Hopkins! We also fit in some days of fun, including visiting Xunantunich, going to a Garifuna cultural center, and going snorkeling to a secluded island. I have participated in two 7e programs, and I will be going back soon! Not only is this a great experience, but you have the opportunity to build on language skills, as well as build a resume geared toward a future carrier in multiple ecological and medical fields. The staff is so supportive - I can't wait to return!

What would you improve about this program?
I don't have anything negative to say about the program...lodging was quaint and beautiful, food was local and tasty, and I made great friends and changed my perspective :) Belize is a welcoming, easy-to-navigate country.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program for a few different reasons. First of all, travelling to Central America has never disappointed me and I had never been to Belize before and was up for a new destination! Everyone i've known who has gone to Belize has raved about how beautiful the country is and how amazing of an experience they had there, and I am so happy to join them now having been to Belize myself.

In addition, I was really interested in some of the excursions the program offered. I had just taken a class on Mayan culture, and it was incredible to be able to travel to see some of the Mayan ruins and work in Mayan communities first-hand. Overall, it seemed like it would not only be a gorgeous destination, but full of culture and history as well.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Personally, I helped to organize this trip through the chapter of 7 Elements my college had on campus, and as such I believe that I was in charge of organizing more than the average traveller would. That being said, I chose to take on this role and was so happy that I did. The work I put in to organizing taking myself and other students to Belize totally paid off! Not to mention that the 7 Elements staff was so supportive every step of the way, they helped us coordinate our flights, transportation, gave us fundraising tips, and were always available to answer any question we had.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

One thing that I think is important to stress about this program is that it is more of an authentic travel experience and not like visiting Belize and staying at a resort would be like. I think you have to be prepared for hard work and to not have all the amenities that they may be accustomed to living in a more developed area. That being said, it is an incredible and unique experience that if done with the right mindset is super rewarding and life-changing.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The days on this trip vary greatly. As it has a service component, there are a mixture of service days and what 7 Elements calls excursion days. Some days you may be working in the hot sun on a construction site and others you might be exploring ruins or snorkeling the Belize Barrier Reef. Everyday is a fun and exciting new adventure. Every night after dinner there are nightly discussions that cover a wide range of topics such as human security, history of Belize, and other sustainability and international development related topics. The discussions were some of my favorite parts of my this trip! I felt like I learned so much and could really take something from it.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I think travelling abroad as a female there is always a small part of me that fears I will be in an unsafe situation. However, having travelled fairly extensively in different parts of the world I've never had an issue. In fact, Belize was one of the most welcoming countries i've ever been to and everyone made me feel so welcome and safe at all times. I think it's always best to exercise proper caution and make sure you aren't putting yourself in dangerous situations, just like you would do at home, and you'll be just fine.

How has this program continued to impact your life after departure?

This was my first trip with 7 Elements and I never would have imagined it to change my life in the ways that it has. I was so inspired by the work that 7 Elements does that I reached back out to them and have continued to work for them for the past few years and I fully support their mission and everything they stand for. I have always had an interest in international development work, but am aware that there are organizations out there that, while they may be good intentioned, end up doing more harm in local communities than good.

I am so happy to report that 7 Elements is definitely not one of these organizations. I am in awe of the work that they do, and they are definitely on the forefront of development organizations making impact, lasting, sustainable change in the work that they do. I support them 100% and hope to continue working with them in the future.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Marie Macdonald

Job Title
Program Operations Manager
Marie handles the logistics, budgeting, itineraries, excursions, cultural activities, and community partnership for 7 Elements. She also leads groups of high school and university-age students through service-learning programs abroad in Belize, Peru, and the DR throughout the year.

What is your favorite travel memory?

One of my favorite memories from working in the Dominican Republic was over this past summer, taking my students to our local cook's house for a party.

We thought we were the fun ones dancing and laughing when all of a sudden the daughter and son of the family showed us all up with their impressive dance moves! If you think your hips don't lie...wait until you see a Dominican dance! So fun.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Most definitely. I have taken on a lot more responsibilities than I would have imagined like managing local staff, handling all transportation and lodging details, working with budgets, speaking with universities, making important program decisions, meeting new partnerships in the country, and so much more.

I am learning how hard this field can be to work in yet how incredibly rewarding it is at the same time. Extremely grateful for my position.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

I received a picture from a group of my students that went out to eat for dinner at a local Korean BBQ place. Even though this may seem like a simple story, there was so much more to that photo. This group of students did not know each other at all before coming to their program abroad. They bonded, worked hard together, made friends with the locals, and had an amazing group dynamic throughout their experience.

The photo of them sharing a meal together, weeks AFTER their return to the US, made me realize how impactful these programs can be and create lasting friendships with people you would have never met before.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I have always wanted to go to Haiti ever since serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in their neighboring country, the Dominican Republic.

My organization offers service-learning programs to Haiti for university students focusing on health and environment; however, due to the current political climate in Haiti, we have not been able to operate there for a couple of years now. It is on my bucket list to visit Haiti and see with my own eyes the projects that 7 Elements have done there. Hopefully soon!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I love that my organization hires and works with a diverse group of people, both international and local. We learn, grow, and share with indigenous, native people in Belize, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. I am so proud that we have close ties with so many amazing, unique, genuine humans around the world that make our programs ethical, meaningful, and impactful.

Our relationships with these individuals are cherished by spending quality time with them whether or not we have programs running.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Communication across the board is always key - making sure your team is on the same page and everyone is caught up with each other, making decisions together and supporting each other on those decisions. I also think that believing in the mission of the organization is extremely important; how can you be successful and put your heart into your work if you do not follow the mission? I feel lucky to be with a company that has a strong mission tied to empowering locals to be sustainable on their own after we work with them.

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