Student News

Tanzania #7: Birthday Celebration

Heather Brown – March 19, 2018

Erin DeMarco (’19) celebrates her birthday with new traditions, as the girls at Mainsprings welcome her into their community. 

“Come outside, Erin. We have a surprise for you.”

My new friend, Elizabeth, grabbed my hand and ushered me towards the door. I nodded my head yes, grasped her welcoming hand, and followed her. Little did I know, it’s a Tanzanian tradition to dump buckets of water on someone on her birthday. So here I was, on my 18th birthday, following Elizabeth outside, thinking that they were going to present to me some sort of gift. Reflecting back on that moment, I did receive a gift: I felt (momentarily) like I was part of their community. Once the girls heard it was my birthday, they opened their arms and welcomed me to their tradition. Although at first I was shocked after having five buckets full of water spontaneously dumped on me, once I looked around and saw all of the JBFC girls laugh and cheer, my day was made. All of the girls ran up to me after and hugged me because they thought it was hilarious that I was soaking wet.

The birthday tradition then continued when they brought me back inside and encouraged me to sing a song of my choice in front of everyone in the dining hall. The JBFC girls inspired me to sing the song “This Little Light of Mine.” They constantly carry a light of their own with them wherever they go, no matter how challenging their lives can be. Trust me, I am no singer and really only sing when I’m alone, so at first I was a bit nervous to sing in front of 60 people. However, once I took a deep breath and looked around, seeing all of my Deerfield peers and the JBFC girls smile and cheer me on gave me the confidence I needed to successfully sing the song. I then had everyone in the room join me in singing the verse: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” There was so much positive energy in the room in that moment, and we all came together as one. All of the girls at JBFC accepted me and my peers into their community and welcomed us to partake in their tradition. To be honest, there were moments throughout yesterday where I wish I could have been with my family on my birthday, but the JBFC girls became my family that night. This has been such a memorable birthday, and I will always remember the warmth and hospitality of the JBFC girls.