Fosters.com/Seacoastonline By Deb Cram
The trip was planned in coordination with EF Educational Tours and the Me to We Charity partner. The EF website states “Our educational philosophy is simple: the best way to help students gain new perspectives and build skills for the future is through experiential learning.”
The Me to We is a shifting of perspective from individual to collective. The WE Villages model focuses on five pillars of sustainable development that the kids observed: education, health, water, opportunity/livelihood and agriculture/food.
The team had two guides who are originally from Tanzania. Tino Mwanyigu graduated from St. Augustine University in Mwanza in 2017 and is a lawyer by profession. Alna Dillon graduated with a bachelor of engineering in civil and irrigation engineering.
“I am interested in meeting people who are passionate about making the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same,” Dillon said.
Upon arrival, the students settled into their camp, which was just a tent with no running water. They focused their work in Oldonyowas, a village of about 2,900 Maasai people who make their living mostly by raising livestock. The people have many challenges of survival, one being limited access to clean water. Each day, the local women (mamas) do a “Water Walk,” trekking miles to a water pipe to fill large jugs of water. The Marshwood clan helped the women as they hauled the heavy jugs hung by ropes on their backs up the dirt paths back to their homestead. The work was strenuous, but rewarding.
Days were filled with work, play and life lessons throughout the trip.
Maasai warrior and guide Elias wore a red and black plaid fabric robe wrapped around his body and at his waist was always a beaded belt with a knife at his side. He taught the girls lessons on speaking Swahili and around a campfire shared background, beliefs, their relation to each other and other tribes, and how they become warriors.
While visiting a home of a villager, they sat together as Elias facilitated the conversation about the openness of love and acceptance.
“I wish that the world was like this. In America, it is so weird,” said Taran, a senior. “Like loving somebody is so special and a big deal, and you have to like wait to say it because if you say it too early then it’s weird but like here, you just tell somebody you love them because it’s just the right thing to do and you need to care about somebody.”
The other girls nodded in agreement.
Santora talked about a safari experience while writing on Facebook: “We are up and ready at 4:30 a.m., eating breakfast and heading to SAFARI! The energy is palpable –send baby elephant vibes our way!”
She later shared photos and wrote: “Words cannot describe our day. Luckily between the 10 of us, we must have a million pictures. So many stories to tell of zebra, baboons, giraffes, lions, and elephants; lots of baby elephants!”
Back to work with all participating in a boma (home) smearing, which maintains a home by using a mix of soil, ash and cow dung. They are seen in photos wearing gloves and masks to help with the smell of being immersed in the brown substance.
“I think we were a little bit skeptical at first, but it’s been pretty cool and not that gross,” Taran said.
The team laughs in agreement.
“Yeah, and it was super satisfying,” added Fjeld, a junior.
Therrien, a freshman, described the process. “It’s kind of like baking bread,” she said. “You have to mix it together and it needs to be the right consistency. If it’s too thick or thin, it won’t stick.”
The girls also dug a foundation for a home where a teacher would live.
“Our foreman was so impressed,” Spillane Jacobs said. “He had to force the girls to stop working; they just wanted to keep going.”
Their schedule fit in beading lessons from the mamas and Maasai warrior weapon training for a competition with bows and arrows. The winners were D’Aran and Fjeld.
Throughout the week, a bond was made with the village’s children. The secondary school students wore uniforms of blue sweaters, white shirts, pants for boys and long skirts for girls. They introduced themselves to 200 students and spent time joking, singing and asking questions. They played with primary school students, who wore uniforms of brown and yellow. They played and ran in the sports field as they held hands, hugged and communicated with smiles and laughter.
At one point, the seven girls visited a home of a woman who has children in the schools and she asked, “Which one is Sophie?”
Lusenhop replied, “I am.”
“My son says he wants to marry you. He has cattle.”
Lusenhop was both a bit stunned and joyous about the surprise proposal.
Now back home in Maine, it is time for reflection and working on moving the experience forward.
Spillane Jacobs wrote a letter to parents saying the “service exceeded ALL expectations.”
“We were all overcome with so much emotion on our departure,” she wrote. “Tanzania is unforgettable. We hit all our goals to connect within the group, with the community members, to think from a global perspective, to discover new knowledge, and to find personal growth! It was a life-changing week for us all and the students’ energy could not be suppressed. This group of students showed perseverance, inclusiveness, open-mindedness and a thirst for knowledge and connection.”
“Amazing,” she added. “We were all deeply touched by the open-heartedness of the rural community of Oldonyowas, Tanzania, and the connections and work we did with these beautiful people.”
As the girls transition back to their lives, Spillane Jacobs hopes they will be reminded of a Mother Teresa quote: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
“And let them know we are all here to help them as they create ripples,” Spillane Jacobs wrote. “Our effect together will indeed change so very much. They will be working on their plans to create ripples. Each of your daughters has created an action plan and we are all in this together. These all include local efforts to share understanding and continue working on connections in the schools and community.”
“That the trip was a life-changing experience and I will never forget it,” Therrien said. “I have learned to be more mindful, live life to the fullest and be in the moment. I am so grateful for the opportunity and everyone should have a chance to have an experience like that!”