Spreading Hope with SSLC Students in Tanzania
| October 23, 2017 |
It’s been therapeutic to work through my journey in Tanzania in retrospect. I aimed to write a post each day in Africa, but access to WiFi and time to do this was more scarce than I imagined. Plus, now I get the joy of reliving the trip while trying to adjust to this crazy life back in the United States. It’s allowed me to prolong the valuable lessons I learned, and stay connected to my purpose and desire to serve.
There’s been so much upheaval about our current society. I feel it: We’re losing hope. Racial inequality, gender identity, and political discontentment are topics that flood the media. Natural disasters are plaguing our planet. Mass shootings are leaving people confused and seeking answers. We are all gripping for some silver lining, some glimmer of hope that we’re going to be okay.
When I think about embracing a life of love, rather than a life of fear, I think of simplifying life. I think of focusing on what we have, rather than what we do not have. Most of us have access to amenities that other nations are not blessed with. Clean, running water… shelter… food on the table… our basic human needs are being fulfilled. Though this is on an elementary level, I think there’s great value in being grateful for these simple gifts. I now think about my time in Africa, where I was surrounded by an indescribable spiritual energy. Even those who were living on $1/day were smiling–finding a reason to live a joyful life. Kids danced in the streets, people praised the Lord for the grace to survive, and everyone cared so deeply and truly for each other. The people of Tanzania were united, recognizing governmental corruption that we (Americans) could not fathom, yet still helping each other in any way they could.
I’m not saying our problems don’t mean anything. I just think we need a shift in perspective, and to instill ourselves with more hope and love. In this post, I’m going to share what each of the children at Step-by-Step Learning Centre taught me, and how we can use their stories to propel ourselves forward. I truly believe, in the end, we’re going to be okay…
Arnold reminds me that nobody is too small to make a difference!
A 10-year-old boy with an attitude of sass and humor! He’ll be shy at first, but won’t stop laughing and requesting pictures to be taken of him once he warms up a bit. We were never fooled by his short stature, as his big personality shines through every bone in his body. Arnold had a tough upbringing, and his single mother works hard to provide from him and his sister. He’s suffered from many fractures and orthopedic conditions, but will still chase other kids around the playground! Arnold would love to have his own chickens and goats to care for one day.
Bryson reminds me that, no matter the circumstance, there’s always something to smile about!
This 10-year old boy is all smiles, all the time. His 21-year-old brother is his full-time caretaker, who spent all five days with us at SSLC to learn how to better care for Bryson. Within these five days, Bryson showed incredible potential and motivation. Once his bilateral AFO’s were donned, he stood up, and started walking so fast we couldn’t even keep up! With the immense support of his loved ones and the teachers at SSLC, Bryson will continue to excel and grow in his functional mobility. He verbalized his gratitude multiple times, and showed us how much God has blessed his life. Bryson has been given the opportunity to be a part of his community where many of his neighbors make as little as $1-$2/day. Now, at SSLC, he can have an egg from the chickens with his lunch to get protein, continue learning to speak, and excel in mathematics.
Hans reminds me that persistence is key to success!
Hans is a mature 15 year-old boy who loves to give thumbs-up and high-fives! He’s come a long way in one year, and is aware of his difficulties, constantly working on improving them. He carries a handkerchief to wipe his drool, and can eat with various utensils. He’s worked incredibly hard at handwriting with his teachers, and executes patience in all he does at school. Hans showed up in a suit when we first met him in April 2016! His professional, calm demeanor and constant effort in overcoming his challenges is so special to observe.
Imran reminds me that challenges require practice, and practice can be fun!
This 8-year-old boy is filled with joy! When we showed Imran how to walk on a line (like a tightrope) and play hopscotch, he had a really hard time. He’d take 2 steps in a row on the line, then step off. Rather than get frustrated and give up, he’d run to the beginning of the and try, try again. If at first he didn’t succeed, TRY he did! He did it all with a smile, and demonstrated curiosity in every way. He loved playing new games, and eagerly boarded the van in the morning to head to school.
Nasra reminds me that human connection goes beyond verbal communication!
A hug from Nasra can brighten anyones day. This 12-year-old girl has the bubbliest personality of anyone I’ve met. She connects with everyone by exchanging hugs, smiles, or a helping hand. When Bryson was practicing walking in his new AFO’s, she came up next to him to demonstrate how to take steps. Nasra treats everyone like they’re her friend, and who wouldn’t want to be friends with someone so sweet and loving! She isn’t able to verbally communicate, but her actions and attitude speak louder than any a single word could.
Rashid reminds me that those who are silent are true observers and intellects.
This 14-year-old boy is not one to speak much, but when he does, you become aware of his intelligence. In the morning circle time, Rashid enjoys to lead the group, discussing the date & weather in English, in addition to leading each of the songs. He demonstrates the same persistence as Hans and Imran in overcoming challenges, and loves to smile for photos. Rashid smiles shyly, but truly. His patience in school activities, such as weaving, is exemplary of his intelligence and commitment to learning. (Above photo captured by Sarah!)
Azariah reminds me that nothing compares to the support from one’s family.
Though Azariah is not a student at SSLC, he certainly deserves some spotlight here. As a 10-year-old boy, Azariah doesn’t get many opportunities to interact with other kids because of his physical impairments. He’s had a difficult medical history, but his family has given him constant support despite the cultural norms. The tenderness his mother and father demonstrated during the educational sessions reigned in my heart as a sign for hope: hope that, with a little love, we can truly do great things.
I am so grateful for these lessons.
What have you learned from what I’ve shared thus far?
Do you have any questions?
To read more about Step-by-Step Learning Centre, the staff, and students (and/or to donate to their unique, passionate vision), please visit their website here: www.sslc-tz.com
With love and gratitude, Kristen “KConn”