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Returning from Tanzania

March 29, 2016

After two weeks of service learning in Africa, students and staff from the British International School of Boston have participated in some life-changing projects. But the projects have changed their lives as much as the lives of those they were helping in Tanzania.

  • BISB and Tanzania
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  • Tanzania and Boston

In a message from Tanzania trip leader Ruth Williams, the group of students and staff shared an update Monday on their last week in Tanzania. The group had been without access to phones or internet for several days while working in a remote Maasai village near Tanzania's Lake Natron.

Their work there, which built upon work started last year by another group of BISB students and staff, included helping to develop and improve a sustainable farming site at a local school. The site, Mrs. Williams said, is already proving to be a big success.

"Last years' project is a HUGE success," she wrote this week. "If anything, the area was over producing and a bit over run. We have redesigned it and made it easier to develop as market garden.  The bio-generator is going strong on making 'black gold.' The difference in growing conditions inside and outside plot are amazing."  

The group of BISB students and staff arrived in the Maasai village early last week, and started their work by helping a local organization developing the site, Summits Africa, to make a case for expanding the farming site by four extra acres. 

The students spent the rest of their week working on fencing off the new site, installing drip irrigation systems in the existing plot developed last year, clearing land for new planting and working on maths to plan for crop production.

Mrs. Williams said the hope is that with the expanded farming site, the school will have even more access to fresh food for their students.

"Between the two plots there should be enough space to grow food to feed the school children breakfast and lunch, and supply some excess for selling and hence supplementing school funds," she wrote. "Attendance is a real issue at the school, so the hope is that two good meals will help address this."

Still, while the farming site has proved life-changing for the residents of the village, even inspiring some who worked on the project to travel to a nearby city to study permaculture, the work has been equally life-changing for the Boston students and staff. 

"I'm really proud of the '16 team," Mrs. Williams wrote. "They've faced lots of challenges but have pulled together and achieved great progress here."

Students shared some reflections of their own, writing their thoughts about the project and their part in it throughout their week in the Maasai village.

"One thing about this trip that has been interesting for me to observe is how the trip has affected my peers," wrote student Rayah N. "I've been able to witness their ongoing changes after they've been exposed to something new, or have learned something they had previously not known. I believe that all of the changes we have gone through are for the better."

Student Carlos G. said the trip made him realize everything we take for granted living in the United States.

"The other day I said that we take electricity for granted, well, here I have experienced that we take food, water and health  as something that everbody has, but it is a false statement."

Student Victoria G. said she was able to see through working with the Maasai village that a little bit of thoughtfulness can go a long way.

"While working today on installing the fencing for the future farming plot, the Maasai joined us and the kids and worked as hard, if not harder, to chop the trees down and place the fence posts," she wrote. "It made me realize that once you show you care, other people start to care, eventually reaching the end goal of motivating other people."

Student Adrianna A. said the second week of the Tanzania trip helped her to realize just how many changes they were able to make in the lives of those they were working with in Africa.

"Earlier I thought, 'Wow, I didn't do as much as I wanted to,'" she wrote. "But now I've come to understand that it's not so much of the visual changes, but more of the changes we can make within the village and by getting the children involved. I'm excited and satisfied with what happened in the past week."

We look forward to sharing more news and student reflections from Tanzania in the coming days. Our students and staff are on their way back from Africa to Boston today, and we'll share more updates on their journey as soon as we can.

Be sure to visit the Tanzania blog, too, to read more updates from throughout their trip.