By Joyce Kiragu, Group Leader, Rift Valley Adventures
Discover yourself. So cliché!! Right?
Well, that’s what I thought too. But intercultural students experiences give this term a whole new light.
They discovered a whole new side. New friend, new experiences, such as learning to play African drums, learning about construction and even learning to make reusable sanitary pads! Valuable life lessons, for example, there is life even without internet and gizmos. And they also have a lot of Maasai shukas and coffee beans to go back to Taiwan with…
The evenings were filled with drumming sessions, Swahili lessons, traditional African songs and dances, Tinga Tinga art and campfire activities…
And we put them right into action the following day!!
Their first challenge was to make a meal for four. They only had a dollar, which translates to Tsh2000. The first reactions were:
“Miss that’s impossible! Seriously!!”
“Miss, are you joking!!”
We took time and explained why it had to be for one dollar only. Most families in developing countries live on less than a dollar a day. They do not have formal or reliable employment. Often only one parent would be working as the other one juggles the children, the farming and the animals at home. No “fancy” things like dressings and accompaniments’ such as ketchup, that most privileged families treat like it is a must have. They understood this and they gave it their best shot. At the local market is where they realized how hard it is to budget for the money they had. Not to mention the language barrier. But they pulled it off. Let’s just say no one slept too hungry. And they will never forget the reality of living on a less than a dollar a day…
The group spent days (not consecutive days of course) doing community service at Heshima centre, Lovilukuny Primary School and Mateves High school. Heshima centre provides children a good start to life and school and offers their mothers training and skills to enable them to make an income and become more independent. Ngugi and Alison, the directors, have made it their priority to provide good affordable education for these kids. At Heshima centre, Ming Dao school and Catholic School were able to put up a swing, draw murals on the outer walls and build a tricycle course. They painted walls and put a new floor in one of the classrooms at Lovilukuny Primary school. And for Mateves, they painted a laboratory and planted trees. All these projects added value, it gave the schools a face lift. The classrooms are now brighter and more conducive for learning.
We were also able to introduce and make reusable sanitary towels with the Taiwanese and Mateves students. They were shy at first but after explaining the importance of these project they were into it like a duck to water. The most surprising thing is the boys from Mateves made the most pads. These made the girls feel more comfortable and appreciated because the boys were sensitive to their issue. At least we can be almost sure, with this new pad making skill, none of the girls will skip school that time of the month.
Catholic schools also spent quality time in the afternoon with kids from Lovilukuny. They taught them songs and dances, Art, and Sports. And the local kids taught them singing games that left most of the Taiwanese breathless because it involved a lot of running and singing at the same time. A few days into the afternoon sessions, we realized that most kids would not play for too long and we pulled one aside and tried to understand why. We were shocked to find out that these pupils do not have lunch and they stay behind long after others have gone home to spend time with the Taiwanese students. Their parents simply cannot afford lunch. And the Dollar a day challenge became a reality to these Taiwanese students. Alison and Ngugi offered to be providing snacks for these kids for the remaining sessions. And it made a whole lot of difference. They were actually looking forward to these sessions because they were guaranteed to have some food.
Ming Dao spent 12 consecutive afternoons working on a documentary with 16 students from Mateves. They were focusing on plastid waste disposal in Tanzania and Taiwan. It was an educative and an eye opening documentary. The local students admitted to not caring about waste disposal and the environment as much as they should. The time they spent researching and interviewing local residents made them realize the damage their negligence was causing. They are now sensitizing people around them on better plastic waste disposal. The Taiwanese group on the other hand wished they too could have clean air and clear skies at night as it is in Tanzania. Maybe we will do a documentary on air and light pollution next time…
Then came the days for game safaris. They wanted to see everything. From warthogs, zebras, lions rhinos, elephants, monkeys and the list continues. And they got to see most of these animals in Lake Manyara National park, Tarangire and Ngorongoro crater.
A lot has been achieved by these two groups. Lives have been touched. Most students have discovered themselves.
I cannot wait to do this all over again next year.