Students from ASEC-charter colleges, Marywood University and Chestnut Hill College, traveled to Tanzania in July 2015 through ASEC’s Service Learning Program.
ASEC’s Service Learning program was formed in 2008, to provide students at charter institutions with an opportunity to travel to Africa for service. Coupled with a 3 credit course taken in the semester prior to the experience, the program is designed to broaden students’ perspective and to prepare them for citizenship in a global community.
The program introduce students to Africa and facilitates a lifelong connection with the continent. In 2015, 9 students, 7 from Marywood and 2 from Chestnut Hill, were accompanied by 2 faculty in a service trip to the Bigwa Secondary School in Tanzania. In Tanzania, the students tutored English at the Bigwa School and visited selected ministries in the nearby community. Marywood student, Nadine Burton, reflected on her experience in the service learning program by describing the experience as life-changing:
Those 20 days in Africa were the most inspiring and life changing experiences I have had to date. Through ASEC my team and I were able to travel to Morogoro, Tanzania to serve as teachers at the Bigwa School for high school girls and at local orphanages. Our mission was to help the girls with their English by teaching during the day. However, since the students began taking their exams when we arrived, we could not continue with the original mission. ASEC was accommodating enough to give us the choice on how best to serve the girls and teachers at the school. We realized instead of having them push off their exams another two weeks, which would delay them going home for Summer break, it would be better to tutor the girls in small groups for the afternoon and help the teachers proctor exams in the morning.
The teachers were very nice and always accommodating to our needs even though we were there to serve them. They learned from us as much as we learned from them. It was nice to have a bond with them, especially the English teachers. When we made posters for all of the classrooms on the last day, they were joyful with the thought of decorations in the classroom. In charge of the school was Sister Praxida and she was thrilled to have us spend our time with her students and staff. She appreciated our kindness and insight into the school but was even more grateful for our company.
The people in Tanzania are much different from people in the States. Even with all the hardships, they have a better soul, if one can say such a thing. They are kind to any person they meet, no skin color or language is an obstacle, and treat them as if they were family. When we were driving through Dar Es Salaam, we accidentally drove down a one way street, the wrong way. Instead of people honking at us, shouting curse words, giving us the middle finger, etc. like what would happen in the States, people along the side of the road, going about their everyday lives, helped us turn around and navigate our way on the street to safety. Even people in Morogoro would go out of their way to make sure we were happy.
On our last evening at Amabilis Centre, the hostel we stayed at, Sister Baptista, the person in charge of running the Centre, paid for boys from a seminary school to come perform for us as a going away party. She even heard us talking about craving pizza and hamburgers so she had the cooking staff make pizza and burgers for us one night. I am sure we would not have survived as well as we did without her help. She did not have to help make our stay easier or help show us around town but she went out of her way to make sure we were welcome in Tanzania. So many people made this trip mean more than any of us expected.
I was told right before I left for Africa from a friend that I would leave my heart in Africa. I did not believe him but now that I am back, I truly understand what he meant. I will always think back to the people I met in Tanzania, wondering how they are, where they are, and if they are okay.
A part of me will always wonder if the orphans have found homes, or if they are sick with a fever from Malaria, or if someone is there holding them. Are the girls healthy, understanding the material in class, and happy? A part of me is left in Africa, with the people I encountered and the sights I have seen. For anyone else traveling to Africa on a service trip I will tell him or her they will leave a piece of them there, but one really has to start the journey to understand, just as I did.