Study Abroad

A Million and One Things

May 30, 2017

Dear family, friends, alumni, faculty and....anyone else who might be reading this, 

I'm writing to you from the Tendala Lodge, sitting in a plush leather love seat in an open air cabana.... listening to toads croaking, birds chirping, card game debacles, the clink of a spoon stirring hot cocoa and hushed chatter. I'm telling you this because I want you to picture yourself here with me and maybe try to relate to how I'm feeling right now. I want to tell you all about the girls self esteem workshop we did on Saturday, but I can't help but reflect on this whole experience, seeing as we leave this journey behind in a few days- so I hope you'll bear with me. 

Going into Saturday there was an underlying sense of nervousness we girls were coping with in our own ways. This workshop was the first of its kind- our chosen topics of health and hygiene, goal-setting, self confidence and relationships (as far as we know) have never been discussed openly in school before- so I think we were all feeling pressure to do right by these girls who we have grown so attached to. We invited the 6th and 7th grade girls to school for a two hour workshop, but when we arrived that morning there were 4th and 5th grade girls and even a few boys who came just for the chance to see us one more time. We divided into groups and cycled through each station. We decided in our meeting the night before that the best way we could help these girls was to be there as friends not teachers, hold their hands and share our own stories. So each group was comprised of a Lasell student teaching pair and their 6th and 7th grade students. Each station had at least one Swahili speaker/expert on the individual topic to guide discussion. These people are friends we have made here who volunteered to spend their afternoon helping us facilitate this. And it honestly couldn't have happened without them and for that we will all be forever grateful. 

I can't see the workshop as anything less than an amazing success.

  • About 60 girls participated in the workshop
  • The headmaster was there to show his support. I'm not sure how to convey how rare and absolutely monumental this is...not only for us in knowing that the local administration supports us but that he cares about women's issues and is willing to make that support known to comfort his students.
  • The girls were avidly paying attention and participating
  • Sharing career goals of artist, seamstress, police officer, doctor, nurse, teacher and president.
  • Two female teachers were there taking notes and observing so they can reinforce this material with students on their own. 

Next year, Lasell students will be able to not only continue this VITALLY needed workshop, but improve upon our small start and even (hopefully) expand to include a boys workshop to reinforce ways to respect women. This is hopefully the beginnings of a program that they can replicate regularly at the school- maybe even the beginning of a health class. We ended the workshop by singing some of the songs we'd taught the kids during the week- non sensical camp songs I learned when I was younger than them, songs about moose, turtles, and bananas. 

There's a million and one things I could tell you all about things I've learned this trip. Some that have broken my heart and some that have made it so full, it almost burst. Before this week, I've never truly understood sadness and poverty but also genuine kindness, hospitality, happiness and beauty. The children I've been privileged to connect with have taught me more about compassion than I have learned in my 21 years prior. They have so little, receive love so openly and give everything they do have so whole heartedly. But most of all, I've learned that everything that is truly important in life is universal. Children's laughter, the power of education, a warm smile, even a high five : they cross cultural barriers to unite us all, and that is possibly the most valuable lesson I (or anyone else) can learn. 

Baadaye! 

Aliza Banana (the nickname given to me by my students and peers)