Campus - 20.04.2016 - 00:00 

P.I.E.C.E.S.: A jigsaw piece for a better world

Excessive capitalism, social injustice and unequal opportunities: these are the issues that occupy the student association, P.I.E.C.E.S. Its members are involved in voluntary educational work worldwide.

21 April 2016. Every human being has a right to education. This is the principle of the P.I.E.C.E.S association, which was established in 2010 and provides assistance to less privileged children on site. The acronym is taken from the sentence “Creating possibilities through inspiration and empowerment, building character with education and a smile.”

English lessons worldwide

The 36 active members of P.I.E.C.E.S teach their pupils English in nine globally dispersed projects. Thus teams of the association travel to countries like Peru, China or Zambia twice a year for three or four weeks in order to provide their services. And in keeping with the self-conception of P.I.E.C.E.S, they do so without remuneration. 34 out of the 36 active members are currently students at the HSG; two are HSG graduates who are already in employment. In addition, there are numerous benefactors from all over Switzerland who want to support the association financially. A direct connection with the HSG is not required for membership.

Funded through foundations and donations

P.I.E.C.E.S is largely funded by the two foundations “Mercator Schweiz” and “Apfelbaum”. Further sources of revenue that secure the association’s continued existence are street campaigns in St.Gallen’s market square and the biannual P.I.E.C.E.S Fundraising Dinner, which is accessible to any member of the general public who is interested. All these financial props contribute towards the coverage of travelling, material and general costs. According to P.I.E.C.E.S President Eric Büchli and Vice-President Leah Preisig, the association also won first place in the be.project Switzerland competition in 2011. This success has had a lasting impact on support both in financial and in organisational terms.

Teaching materials are bought locally

For logistical reasons, the procurement and selection of teaching materials is conducted in cooperation with local partners. In Lima, for instance, says Büchli, the local Swiss Embassy was persuaded to procure the materials. In addition, P.I.E.C.E.S looks for local printing stations and also makes use of classic blackboards. In this academic year, the students have now designed a textbook of their own, which is still being refined. It contains eleven consecutive chapters, which all are divided up into the three parts of vocabulary, grammar and games.

As to the selection of its deployment locations, P.I.E.C.E.S has set up specific rules, according to which four criteria must be satisfied: political security on site, organisational factors, financial feasibility and a guarantee of the positive effects of the project. Organisation constitutes the main function of the student association. This does not only include the challenging procurement of the necessary visas but also the establishment and cultivation of contact with reliable people on site and in Switzerland. Ultimately, the aim is to create a suitable link between active members of P.I.E.C.E.S and the corresponding educational needs worldwide. The association itself does not have a teaching infrastructure of its own; the premises are made available by partners. Thus working conditions can vary a great deal from location to location.

Enthuse students from other universities

In future, P.I.E.C.E.S will try to retain its current position, as well as the sponsors who have made this financially possible. According to Büchli and Preisig, the association’s potential has not yet been exhausted by far. The members want to address students from other universities and enthuse them for their activities. However, such an extension requires the corresponding financial resources, which are always at the centre of voluntary work. But the committed students of P.I.E.C.E.S are in any case looking ahead with confidence and continue to be motivated in the pursuit of their goal to contribute a jigsaw piece for a better world with better educational opportunities and future prospects for children.

Thomas Tarantini studies Business Administration in the fourth semester and is also enrolled in the teaching programme "Book and Publishing Studies" at the University of St.Gallen.

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