Student News

Tanzania #20 — The Thirteen

Christina Kopp – March 22, 2014

Zz Salvador ’14 sends this final reflection from Tanzania:

13- The Final Blog Post

 January 2014. Koch 305. 13 teenagers. 13 different interests. 13 different friend groups. 13 different (but still similar) ways of life.

1 freshman. 2 sophomores. 8 juniors. 2 seniors.

We sit, arms crossed, in silence, thinking about the work or socializing we could get done during this precious faculty break. Casually looking around, glancing with forced smiles at the people next to us. Small talk is exchanged. Mr. Miller tries to break the silence with a quirky remark. To him, to all of us, the silence is a little deafening.

We’re each a little anxious for the journey that lies ahead. Like Marlow in Heart of Darkness, Africa on the map holds a position of dark unknown in a few of our minds. Words of danger swirled in our thoughts, mine particularly, most mentioned by our parents: malaria, vaccinations, purification, and infection.

Unsure about my decision to spend my ‘senior spring’ vacation on a refuge trip rather than in The Bahamas or Cancun, I looked around Koch 305 at the blank faces staring back at me… I knew most of them. But only really associated with a few. Others I had seen in passing.

 Lucy student and Zz hoeingMarch 2014. JBFC guest-house. 13 bodies of laughter. 13 determined volunteers. 13 people connected to each other.

 “I really hope we’re this close when we get back to DA,” says Christie Jok with a wide smile. In the living room of the cozy guesthouse, the conversation has escalated to moments of heavy laughter and tears of joy. Sam Morse smiles after each touching moment of the memorable day is shared. The conversation revolves around continuing JBFC traditions amidst our busy lives at Deerfield. The faculty attempts to persuade us to get some sleep and conclude the conversation. But none of us are selfish enough to break off from the chemistry. Katherine Goguen lets out a surprised observation once she finds a moment of silence: “We’re an incredibly diverse group. I couldn’t imagine one of us not being here. Or some other person here instead.” A couple people let out an emotional ‘awww’. I smile and gaze into her kind eyes. Eyes that I have seen looking down at two young orphans in each of her arms.Katherine G teaching at JBFC

Reflecting back on the experiences we’ve had as a group, I always look back to the first question Chris Gates, founder of JBFC, asked our diverse group. “Why are you all here at JBFC?” he asked in his mid western accent as we sat in the living room of his cluttered home. I consider this question a personal title for the trip.

 And now that we will soon depart this place of love and joy, I would like to refocus on our purpose and how this special group ties into the goal we set out to achieve. First of all, we’ve arrived at the fact that this trip means more to us than it does to the girls. Hopefully the girls will remember us when we leave, but the memories for us will last forever.

Mirjam pouring water JBFC In my opinion, this group, comprised of every grade and an array of backgrounds acted as the perfect role models for the girls. With concordance to the four pillars of JBFC, I can honestly say that each kid has a pride for service in the benefit of others (refuge), an enthusiasm for the spread of knowledge (education), the caring for their own well-beings (health), and the drive to work in the fields and do the tough deeds first (agriculture). I know that not every DA student contains these values. But I couldn’t be more proud of how well our group worked in their lines of duty from the classroom to the garden. From Ali Barber’s willingness to sit with Vinnie, a small girl with a spinal disorder, while everyone else scampered and played. To William Ughetta’s focused mindset for teaching math and science. It’s a real compliment to the quality of person each of the thirteen possesses.Tamara and Zz teaching JBFC

 Each of us is a changed person, each in different ways. A reoccurring phrase that highlights the purpose of this trip was a quote by Mr. Miller. “I will define the success of this trip not by how many people go to JBFC in the future, or by how many times we come back. But by how many people want to be like Chris Gates.” To all of us who anxiously ponder about the future beyond life at Deerfield and college, JBFC presented a fulfilling perspective on how we, individually and as a group, can change the world.

 The Tanzanian sun slides over the forest green hills of the shimmering Lake Victoria. We sit upon smooth rocks atop of the hill and gaze at our final sunrise in JBFC. The red sky shrouds the lake and the sun creates a road of bright light across the tranquil water. The light wind breaks the silence between us. But now, the silence is reflective. Where do we go from here? How do we turn our privilege into a responsibility to serve the world? How can we be like Chris Gates? This time, we’re not looking ahead, but looking back at the classes and the meals and the late nights that we all spent together. The silence is no longer deafening.

 13 came together as 1.

 -       Zz Salvador, signing off.

DA-in-TZ 3 Thiel