We had the opportunity to visit several schools today to donate books. What an experience! Earlier in the week, we sorted through a mountain (with very little exaggeration) of textbooks and storybooks. While Mtendere does not have the need or capacity for many of the higher-level books, they found schools that are.
Our first visit was to the primary school the children at Mtendere attend. The 1500 students there treated us like rock stars; it was a total Beatles moment. When we arrived, they ran from the school building cheering. When we left, they chased the bus for nearly a half mile.
The schools were better than what I expected from articles we read before coming. There are 1500 students at the school with only 42 qualified or unqualified teachers. The lack of materials was the worst aspect of the school. There are not nearly enough books to even share, the chalkboards are worn and hard to read, the children did not have desks, and there was a complete absence of electronic teaching materials.
The other 3 schools we visited were secondary schools. When we loaded the trailer with books, we noticed many algebra and algebra II books. We thought for sure that these would be too difficult. But, when we visited one school, we visited a 130 person class full of students solving equations that I cannot. It teaches a lesson that we should not judge a book by its cover. This school was in disrepair, but the students were still learning very difficult material.
My favorite thing about this part of the day was seeing the students’, teachers’, and headmasters’ faces when we donated the books. In the United States we have committees that meet for a year to decide which textbooks to buy. The people at these schools were greatful for any books that we could give them. I am sure they will be in good use.
We stopped for lunch at a random spot on the side of the road. There was a large, shaded rock nearby where we could eat our lunch. As we started into our lunches, we noticed some small children in a nearby village and invited them to share our lunches. While timid at first, the children realized that we only wanted to help, and they sat down to eat with us.
After we ate, Erin, our AFC trip leader, noticed a laceration on the back of a small girl’s ear. It looked as if she were attacked by an animal. Thankfully, Demi, one of the members of our group, is currently finishing her residency as a doctor and was willing to treat this child. It was a very moving lunch. To think that we stopped at a random time at a random place on the side of the road, and were able to bring so much good.
You could say that I touched the hearts of the children at Mtedere villiage, but I like to think of this as a two-way street. While Mtendere tries to provide the most loving environment it can, there are just too many children to give enough attention. That is one reason why volunter groups are so important to the orphanage. I was able to play with the children for only a half hour after delivering books today, but it was a fantastic 30 minutes. I was spinning children, playing games, giving piggy-back and shoulder rides. This type of attention is so important to the children’s development, and it mends my heart as well.
I am so thankful that Ball State offers this type of immersive learning experience. Today was a great example of how we can help others while learning. Just look at the faces of the people in the pictures of this post; from their eyes, you can see how we have helped. I am confident that I have learned far more from this trip than if I had taken EDDRDG 430 and EDEL 450 on campus. Our experiences within the course content gives us real-world, multicultural applications. This is possibly the best learning experience of my life.
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