The Harley School (New York) offers an unusual elective course for seniors in which the students learn how to care for another person at the end of his or her life. Called the Harley Hospice Corps, the course supports the “Characteristics of a Harley Graduate,” to which students aspire. One of the characteristics is to be “a civic person who is aware of what it means to take care of another human being (a compassionate and empathic person).”
The Harley Hospice Corps is both local and international in scope. It links students from two cultures with shared experiences in end-of-life care, and engages students in cross-cultural experiential learning opportunities that reinforce shared aspects of the human condition.
The students volunteer in local hospices, and those who have completed at least 100 hours of local service may choose to travel to one of three international sites in India, Belize, or South Africa to provide bedside/comfort care, wound care, feeding and laundry assistance, support to orphaned and disabled children, and peer-to-peer training in acute/end-of-life care. The Hospice Corps’ mission is not only to promote mutual understanding between cultures, and to deliver requisite supplies/materials, but also to try and leave behind a sustainable infrastructure.
Of the 16–18 students who normally take the course, about a half dozen travel to the international sites. The formal curriculum used for Hospice Corps has been shared with peers in international locations and teleconferencing has allowed for continued communication. The curriculum has been published by the International Association of Hospice and Palliative Care.
The Harley Hospice Corps received a $50K grant from the EE Ford Foundation in 2008. The grant supported the program in a dollar-for-dollar match fund-raising initiative.