Nathan Hu ’19 reflects on a day of hard work and the “constant excitement and passion” the JBFC girls permeate, and Maddy Sofer ’21 finds similarities that make a strong connection with her reading buddy.
A 6:30 run with our beloved Jonas once again started the day; this time though, our numbers dwindled to six. We had a more strenuous, longer run in the blistering, rising, Tanzanian sun, but we reaped the same rewards of seeing a magnificent sunrise and running with Tanzanian children as they completed their daily trek to the public school next to our camp at JBFC Mainsprings. This experience was once again beyond rewarding, but our later arrival because of the extended run put a little more pressure on us to shower and change quickly. The abundant droplets of sweat slowly sauntering down my face in the burning rays of the early morning sun have made me appreciate the cold showers before breakfast every morning.
After another great breakfast from Papa’s, we continued to the morning work rotation. Today, I had the privilege of helping to prepare lunch for the school kids at the dining hall. We began by doing the dishes, that allowed us to get to know the staff of the dining hall. We eventually transitioned to actual making of the meal. I, along with one of the other mamas cut up the kale leaves for the meal’s vegetables. I started off, excited to help prepare the vegetables I had been eating the past couple of days, but quickly learned how tiring the process is. As my cutting pace continuously slowed because of the burning sensation filling my wrists, the mama across from me seemed to speed up. Their relentless work towards making porridge or cutting kale displayed their desire to make the kid’s experience as good as possible. They offered us the opportunity to stir the porridge pot, but the sticky substance proved too strong for any of us to stir and we had to return the paddles to the good cooks. After completing the making of the meal, we had to serve the warm sustenance to the eagerly awaiting students. Even serving food took a significant amount of wrist strength as the mamas served plates of food almost twice as fast as me to the 1st and 2nd grade students smiling and holding their empty hands out to us. After we finished serving four classes of students, we headed out to another managers lunch.
Our last experience of the day came after prayer time with the girls. Their contagious excitement once again boiled over during our variety of games including one familiar to us, kick ball. The girls cheering us on as we kicked the ball and chanting “cheencha, cheencha” every time we scored a run gave us the shots of energy we needed to continue, smiling, after our days of helping out around campus.
The constant excitement and passion of everyone on this campus towards us, newcomers whom they have only known for three days, and towards trying to give/get the greatest educational experience possible has left me dumbfounded. The hours of working and hard work have done nothing to quell the joyful spirits of every person we have interacted with. I personally realize that when being at Deerfield or at home, there is no excuse for me to ever don a frown as these kids are constantly turning the corner of their mouths upwards despite any hardships present in their life.
At 5 pm every other day, we meet with our reading buddies for an hour. The goal of a reading buddy is to develop and foster a genuine connection with a JBFC girl through reading. We were to find a book at each girl’s reading level in the school’s library, which consisted mainly of donated books—famous childhood stories such as Frog and Toad, Biscuit Goes to School, and many others.
My reading buddy is called Joan. She’s small in size with warm brown eyes that reflect both innocence and mischievousness. Joan is a sweet, quiet yet sassy six-year-old. She enjoys drawing, talking with friends, and singing. Upon first meeting her, she appeared shy, but after talking with her for a mere five minutes I could tell that was certainly not the case. In our first few minutes together, she eagerly picked out multiple thin, paperback books. She was timid when it came to reading the book out loud to me, but once she began, I could see her talkative and extroverted side. We strayed from the book and into more intimate topics such as her life at school and which girls she considered to be her best friends.
She asked me to bring a pen and some paper to our most recent meeting. Her little hands grabbed the black pen out of my grip and she proceeded to draw on the pad of notebook paper. She copied down the words from the story we were reading as well as some of the images. This led into her asking me to spell my name for her to write and then scribbling her own next to it. She flipped the page, humming Swahili songs, and continued with her art. She drew a house and people, much like I would’ve done as a kid.
Although we have only met with our reading buddies twice, the connection that I have made with Joan is unlike any other I’ve forged on this trip. People often perceive African children as displeased with their situation and living in destitution. Joan and the other girls don’t necessarily enjoy the same amount of material wealth as Americans, but they have proved to me that they are some of the happiest people as well as similar to us Deerfield students. Joan too lives at her school, gossips with other girls, and stresses about schoolwork. I have seen our similarities through these two brief sessions, and realize that our connection is not only centered around my job as her reading buddy, but also through our shared passions.