Over the last ten weeks, our group of fifteen students has explored the deepest corners of two Durhams that many of my hometown friends have never even heard of. In Durham, NC we learned about the surrounding city and people that often go ignored or undiscovered by Duke students through our worksites and enrichment activities, but much of that exploration remained an individual task. In Durham, England, on the other hand, we were thrown together in a hallway very much reminiscent of boarding school stories. We got to know each other, much more than any of us thought possible at the start or even midpoint of our program, with sayings and habitual acts that few of the people from home will ever hope to understand. We travelled, attempting to be cultured on our two or three days outside the walking (or hiking) town that we wandered through every day. We slept very little and ate very much in an attempt to understand every aspect of English culture, day and night (or at least until the shops' and restaurants' summer hours ended). The theme of our program was economic development, but our experience was so much more than that. We learned about the history of mining culture, walked in commemorative parades, volunteered at festivals and frequented some restaurants to the point of becoming regulars with "the usual" as an accepted form of order. Of course our work with each respective worksite was a significant focus and took up most of our days, but the overall impression that I have of Durham, England is a hodgepodge of riverside walks, boat rides, and countryside hikes, trips to M&S or Tesco, and that one time I visited a full scale prison. I guess it's hard to summarize what we did in a few words, but I know that the people and places I've gotten to know this summer will stick with me for a long time.
Hiya all! So we have come to the end of this amazing ten week service learning experience. We have made new friends both at home and abroad and created new memories. This experience has opened my eyes to the different cultures that can exist at home and of course abroad. Even though Durham, NC is in the states, I saw how different the people were from the people at my home. I enjoyed Durham, UK immensely. My work site was amazing, and I really enjoyed the people I met. Everything from St. Mary's lighthouse to seeing the Tommy soldier at Seaham were great! The learners created a team challenge that I can say I truly enjoyed. This summer has caused me to learn a lot about myself. I also enjoyed the great balance between our service work and our enrichment programs. I feel we truly got to learn about Jordi culture, and I am glad that I had this experience this summer.
Hey there again, it’s me Taylor Dorsey, but now I’m blogging from Durham, England!! My time here in England has been great and I have learned so much about how similar the two cities really. Here in Durham, England the main industry was mining, but not that industry has died and they are trying to rebuild the community through new technological industries. They have set up a tech start-up company called Net Park. This is similar to how Durham, NC has tobacco as the main industry but that left and since Research Triangle Park was created. In fact, Net Park created based on the RTP model. We actually visited Net Park and one of the directors actually talked to us about some of the iniatives they are trying to do there. They have one of the best 3D printing machines in the country and are trying to use this to create alternate sources of energy. There is so much potential in Net Park if it can shift its focus from just being an incubator for these tech start-ups, to trying to create an environment where these companies want to stay. I look forward to seeing how Net Park will change and grow in the upcoming years.
That’s all for now!
Hey guys, it's Cord! For the past four weeks Brian and I have had the privilege to work in HMP Durham prison. I say privilege because we are truly lucky to have had such an amazing, educational, and worthwhile experience. Brian and I worked with the drug and alcohol recovery unit in the prison. Alcoholism and heroin use are very prevalent in the North East of England, and many of the prisoners are addicted to heroin and/or are alcoholics. While drugs are prevalent in the prison, there are the brave and determined ones who are trying to recover. Within the prison, there is exceptional effort put into helping the prisoners wanting to recover from drugs and alcohol.
Our time at the prison consisted primarily shadowing in the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Team office. We attended a wide variety of recovery meetings and one-on-one assessments. We also spent a few days in the recovery wing, which provides a drug-free environment for prisoners to focus on their recovery. We were there to observe, but often we were able to interact with the prisoners and contribute to the meetings.
The most surprising aspect of the prison was how easily received and welcomed we were by the prisoners. From the first day, they were eager to talk to us and ask us questions about America. The longer we were there the more comfortable they became with us. We held engaging discussions with them and were treated as an equal contributor to the group sessions. We even developed meaningful relationships with some of the prisoners whom we saw often. Entering I had some apprehension to working the prison due to the stigma associated with Americans prisons. HMP Durham, however, was not as dangerous as I thought it might be, and I felt safe and comfortable working there. Moreover, I thoroughly enjoyed coming to work everyday and interacting with the prisoners in such a deep and positive way.
This experience has been very educational to me. First, I had never really had a cultural immersion like this. Thisis the first time I had been in England, and my conceptions, primarily based on movies and the few Brits I had met, was that the entire country was proper and posh like London. However, it was very interesting learning about the culture of the North East – the accents, the vernacular, and the people. On the first day, we could barely understand their thick Geordie accents, but now 4 weeks later, we had no trouble carrying on conversations with them. Working in the prison really revealed the effects of the loss of the mines and shipbuilding in the 1970s and ‘80s and how the area has really struggled to recover from it. It was truly and immersive experience and I feel like we have now a good understanding of the culture here.
The other thing I really gained from this experience was a better understanding of addiction. In the US, there is such a stigma against addiction – that it is the fault of the addict. After working in the prison and those trying to recover, my outlook has completely changed. These men have lost everything due to their addiction, and it has taken complete hold of their lives. I have become more empathetic to those suffering from addiction and commend those who are trying to recover. We were able to the various stages of recovery from the ones being initially assessed about their drug and alcohol use to ones working in education programs or Alcoholics Anonymous to the prisoners in the recovery wing who are maintaining being clean. The differences are so stark – their stories and even their physical appearance. To see how positive the effects of recovery are is incredible.
On our last two days, the workers and prisoners continually expressed the appreciation of our time at the prison. At the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, one of the prisoners whom we had gotten to know well spoke, thanking us for our time here and saying how much they enjoyed getting to know us. They presented us each a card signed by many of the prisoners we had become fond of. Then today the members of the recovery wing presented a print of the Durham Cathedral and each signed the back, expressing their appreciation. I am truly touched by how we were welcomed. It made it clear how fulfilling this experience has been, and I am blessed to have this experience.