Lexi Roadside ’21 reflects on her time with the JBFC girls and their warm caring culture.
As the steaming sun beamed through the hot air, the 5th hour of our adventurous Safari trip passed. The drone of the massive tires over the rocks harmonized with sounds of murmurs of students awaiting the sight of any new animal. This quiet music left me much time to reflect on the previous six days and five hours. I realized how much I had changed over such a short time because of the kindness and sincerity of the Mainspring girls, Tanzanian adults, and Deerfield group.
Upon my acceptance to participate in this trip I was filled with apprehension and just as much excitement. My biggest worry was not being able to talk to my closest people because I wouldn’t have my phone; luckily, this was the loudest wake up call. I have now been here for a week and have not missed my phone at all. I miss my friends and family often, but I have made such a close family here that I have been fully engaged in this new one. When the time to pack came I was filled with anxiety about what to buy, wear, and bring. Traveling is a huge stressor for me because I always feel as though I will be forgetting something or will not be prepared. I was also very worried about the social scene on this trip. I knew four people before the plane took off on Sunday morning, but none of them were my best friends. I was scared that I would not build any relationships with those around me. However, once I stepped on the plane my worries quieted; but they were soon silenced when I arrived at JBFC. As the days went by, I became more and more comfortable with the group of people from DA that I felt that I could rely on them a lot. If I forgot anything I felt comfortable that they would help me out, if I needed to talk I knew that they would be there to listen, and if I needed a friend that they would be there. As my worries about the group diminished, my excitement for being with the girls increased.
I did not have many expectations before going on this trip which I think made it the most fun. I could not wait to spend time with the girls and get to meet people from across the world. Since I had never been to Africa before, I was ecstatic to learn how others live, especially if I would be able to engage in their everyday life. Even in the first few minutes on campus, I was surrounded by girls hugging me and introducing themselves. I was shocked because I had never been invited so openly anywhere before. After getting to know them I realized that unlike their greeting, they are not much different from the people I am surrounded by on a day to day basis. The only things that differentiate them from us is there welcoming generous spirit. These girls don’t have much, but they are willing to offer it to any guests they have. They share their food, songs, games, and string for friendship bracelets openly. I do not know if their openness comes from their culture, being that I have only met welcoming people here, or from the fact that they know how it feels to want someone to take them in. Having the privilege to experience someone else’s culture is something that I will never take for granted.
Besides how much I have changed and learned over this trip, I also had the time to realize what my favorite parts have been. Every interaction I had with the girls was something to remember. From the way Winnie—a three-year-old JBFC girl—runs with her tiny little legs into my arms as I enter the gates every day, to the way Kulwa—my 15-year-old reading buddy—finds me at the start of every event and wraps her thin arm through mine as I ask her about her day. Kulwa is my reading buddy who I saw three times during this trip.
Although we are called reading buddies, we only read for the first session and just talked for the other two. Getting to hang out with her one on one has been such an influential part of my days because we relate as peers so we can easily talk about similarities and differences about our lives. She does not only introduce me to her culture, but asks about mine. Kulwa is someone I am glad I could be friends with and one I hope to stay in contact with. She is also one of the girls who leads prayer every night. This is a time where the JBFC community comes together through the leadership of the girls to worship the lord. Being a Christian, I love to hear all the girls’ harmonious voices collectively praising the same God that I do countries away. I love how many events are led by the girls, not only prayer.
The empowerment and the leadership quality of kindness is obvious in these girls, which is probably an effect of being told that they are leaders. The only difference I have noticed between the JBFC Mainspring girls and those I am surrounded by at home is how outwardly generous and welcoming they are here in Kitongo. I have, already, and I think we can all learn immensely from these beautiful girls.