Life in the Village Tree experience
By LeighAnn Wolle | Echo
In the fall of 2014, Taylor’s psychology department introduced a new minor, Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC). In conjunction with this minor is the Village Tree experience, Taylor’s living learning community, where students live together based on their area of study. Participants in the Village Tree must complete a three credit hour class and go on a mission trip to serve orphans and vulnerable children. In addition, they all complete a summer internship with an organization that relates to both their major and OVC. Once back on campus, these students live together in Haakonsen Hall for the year. Over the school year, they work on educating the Taylor Community about children in need and completing a project or doing research relating their major to OVC.
This year, eight students are participating in the Village Tree experience. Senior Katie Duran decided to apply for the Village Tree experience because of her passion for orphans and vulnerable children. She feels that God has truly laid the call to love and serve these children on her heart.
“Living in Haakonsen is one of the best decisions I have ever made,” Duran said. “I love living in the Haak. I think that a lot of people don’t know what the Haak is, where it is or really anything about it.”
One of the unique things about the Village Tree is the shared passion among everyone participating. They each come in with a unique perspective, whether from the way they were raised or the major they have.
“This summer I went to El Salvador. I grew so much in the time overseas,” Duran said.
All of the Village Tree participants have been able to share their overseas experiences with each other about . The ability to debrief with people who share a heart for the children they served has been beneficial to the group, Duran said. The diverse group has created a close-knit family in the short amount of time they have had so far in the Haak.
The Haak is the one place on campus that takes a leap away from Taylor’s strict open-house policy. It is co-ed, with girls and boys separated by walls as opposed to floors.
“Yes, living with boys means you have to wear pants more often, but it is worth it,” Duran said. “Every day is a growing experience. I think that living in a co-ed dorm causes me to learn to live and walk in a more dignified manner, as well as (be) cautious and respectful.”
As a senior, Duran believes her time in the Haak will help prepare her for life outside of Taylor. The Haak acts as a step between dorm life and being completely independent.
Duran is enthusiastic for more people to learn about the Village Tree Experience and the Orphans and Vulnerable Children minor.
“We are all called to look after and take care of widows and orphans,” Duran said. “I think that it is so easy to be oblivious to the hard issues, especially at school when it isn’t our ‘focus.’ However, we can make all the difference here and now!”