South Africa: Meet the Team

Team South Africa is excited to embark on our journey in a few short hours! We hope that you will stay updated with our blog throughout the next two weeks, where we’ll share lots of interesting experiences and learning moments. To start, here’s a little information about each of the wonderful members of our team:

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Adults

Mrs. Strobel

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The adult team leader, Mrs. Strobel is leading the trip for the sixth time this year. Mrs. Strobel is from Culver and she has been involved in LCA for 15 years (almost from the beginning) and is amazed watching how our students continue to embrace the experience and build the relationship we have with Christel House South Africa (CHSA). Our team shares some CGA Leadership Workshops with the Christel House student leaders and she loves to see our students rise to the challenge and embrace the experience as student leaders and global learners. She is excited for the team and future funny moments and is a little nervous about surprises. Mrs. Strobel loves to travel and considers Cape Town one of the most beautiful places she has ever seen. Her goals for the trip are first and foremost to have a safe trip, and then to embraceubuntu—”I am, because you are.”

Mrs. Beeson

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Mrs. Beeson is a counselor at Culver. She grew up in Petion-Ville, Haiti but currently lives in Culver. She chose this trip as she has always been fascinated by the modern history of South Africa. She says, “I remember learning about apartheid as a child (when it was still in force) and celebrating when Mandela was elected president. There are many parallels between the social dynamics in Haiti, and I am excited to be able to learn lessons from South Africa that could be helpful in my own country.” She is most excited about meeting the students and staff at Christel House & visiting locations related to Mandela/Apartheid (Robben Island, Apartheid Museum, Soweto, etc) and is most nervous about jetlag when we come back to Culver. A fun fact is that she hasn’t been out of the country since 2000. Mrs. Beeson’s goal is to help our team have a safe, fun, and enlightening trip together.

Dr. Buggeln

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Dr. Buggeln (or Dr. B) is a humanities teacher at Culver and is from Valparaiso, Indiana. He chose this trip because he has wanted to go to South Africa since his research project on Anti-Apartheid leaders in 1985. He is most excited about being in historic places he has been reading about for years and most nervous about being healthy and safe. A fun fact is that Dr. B’s daughter, Hannah, CGA ‘14 was co-President of LCA, and he is grateful to be one of the few “honorary members” of LCA. A goal is to support the team, Mrs. Strobel, Ethan, and LCA’s good work as well as travel.

Mama Dee

Mama Dee is the Tower RD and she is from Cleveland, Ohio. She chose the trip because she loves Mrs. Strobel and wants to go to a new country and loves meeting new people and helping the kids, but she is nervous about how much we will be travelling. A fun fact is that she loves school! A goal is to learn more about South Africa.

Mrs. Hansen

Having gone on the trip already, Mrs. Hansen, who is from Culver, said that “The experience watching our students work with Christel House was amazing when on the trip in 2016.” She is excited about working together to help others and learn about the culture and people of South Africa, and she loves working with kids and serving others. A goal is to keep everything calm and positive.

Seniors

Ali Kwiecien

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Ali is a senior in Linden dorm from Naperville, Illinois. She chose the trip as she believes that “South Africa Trip offers a little bit of everything: meaningful service, opportunities for leadership, a cultural experience and adventure! Everyone who has been on the SA trips also speak of it so highly and I hope that it is just as life-changing for me as it was for them.” She is excited about leading the Team Building workshops at Christel House and learning about the students’ strengths and stories. She is also excited to deliver the South Africa Drive donations that have been collected over the past few months as part of the South Africa drive she organized, and something she is nervous about is the 12 hour plane ride. A fun fact is that Ali am fluent in Polish and has traveled to 4 out of 7 continents (North America, Europe, South America, and Asia). Her goal is to unplug, be present, and reflect.

Ellie Tice

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Ellie is a senior in Atrium from Kokomo, Indiana. She chose South Africa so that she could learn about another culture and group of people while helping serve and lead among a group of peers. She is most excited about meeting all of the kids at Christel House and getting to play games with them during our team building exercises, and most nervous about jetlag when we come back to school. A fun fact is that she is in the process of getting her pilot’s license, and her goal is to learn something new about someone every day.

Erin Postma

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Erin is a senior in Benson from Crown Point, Indiana. Erin has been very active in LCA over the past four years and is interested to learn more about the culture and history of South Africa by going there. She also hopes to learn more about the relationship Culver has with Christel House and help make that relationship stronger. Erin is most excited to walk down the street in Soweto where the protests took place, noting that “I think it will be a very powerful experience,” and she is most nervous about the flight. A fun fact is that she still has a baby tooth. Erin hopes to have an open mind and learn as much as possible.

Ethan Tinsley

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Ethan is a senior in Band from New Bremen, Ohio and he is the first CMA student to join the South Africa trip. He chose the trip to be enriched in servant leadership and to embrace a culture that is different from his own. He is excited to run workshops and see elephants and is most nervous about the flight. He hopes to make new friends and take many pictures, and one fun fact is that he was born in Japan.

Janelle Li

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Janelle is a senior in Atrium from Saratoga, California but grew up in Shanghai. She chose the trip because of her involvement in LCA and interest in issues in Sub-Saharan Africa. She hopes to help continue the LCA partnership with Christel House and interact with the students there and is excited to learn, meet new people, and see animals. She also wants to learn more, firsthand, about how South African history has informed contemporary South Africa. She is nervous about jetlag after we come back to school and hopes to help run the blog effectively and ask everyone to contribute. A fun fact: she held the Olympic torch in 2008 before the Beijing Summer Olympics.

Sydney Herczeg

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Sydney is a senior in Harbor from South Bend, Indiana. She is excited to work with the students of Christel House. She said, “working with LCA over the last couple of years, Christel House is always mentioned when talking about fundraising or as one of the main organizations that LCA supports. By hearing the name so often, I became very interested in going to South Africa to help continue the amazing relationship that LCA has with Christel House.” She is also interested in traveling to another country and experiencing a new culture; it will be an educational opportunity to see what their day to day lives are like. She is most excited about working with the students are Christel House, experiencing a new culture, and potentially trying new food, and most nervous about being in an unknown place as it could definitely be a sensory overload. Her main goal is that the workshops that we have with the students are meaningful and fun. A fun fact is that she went zip lining over the St. Joseph River.

Juniors

Abby Beck

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Abby is a junior in Court from South Bend, Indiana. She says that she has wanted to go on a mission trip for as long as she can remember, and this interest and her interest in Africa promoted an interest in LCA. She said, “During the meetings and talking to Mrs. Strobel, I developed a love for Africa and the culture that I want to explore even further. I really want to make a difference in the world, and what better place to start than a place that truly intrigues and inspires me?” Abby is looking forward to learning a new culture in a way that never would have gotten without Culver. She wants to bond with everyone on the trip, go on a REAL African safari, and share the leadership she has learned during my time at Culver with others around the world. She is most nervous about the flight, and a goal is to make at least two new friends and embrace South African culture. An interesting fact is that she has alpacas.

Cady Clark

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Cady is a junior in Harbor from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is fourth generation at Culver. She has never been out of the country and wanted her first time leaving the US to be on a service-oriented trip, and in South Africa she hopes to fully embrace herself in the surroundings and unplug from her phone. She is excited about meeting new people and most nervous about the flight.

Nicole Pare

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Nicole is a junior in Linden from Culver. She chose this trip as she loves learning about South African history and the country is a beautiful place. She is excited about meeting all the students we’ll be working with and going on safari and is nervous about the travelling itself. One of her trip goals is to grow in her knowledge of other cultures and be more comfortable with change. One fun fact is that she loves to paint.

Regina Leon

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Regina is a junior in Ithaka from Mexico City. She chose South Africa because she thinks that it is an opportunity of a lifetime. She feels that this trip will help her get closer to a lot more people and will help me learn so much more about a new country that she never thought she would be learning about or even going to. She is excited about animals and nervous about the plane rides, but ultimately hopes to step out of her comfort zone and try new things. A fun fact is that she adopted a dog during the summer and named her Lettuce.

Sophie Parker

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Sophie is a junior in Linden from Knox, Indiana. Having been a member of LCA from three years and being passionate about LCA and the partnerships we have, Sophie conducted a donation drive for the students at Christel House of items they expressed a need for. She wants to meet the girls that the donations were going to and is excited to learning about the stories of the students at Christel House and conduct the leadership workshops with them. She is also very excited for elephant sanctuary because they are her favorite animal, and most nervous about the long flight, as she has never been on a flight over five hours long or flown over large bodies of water. This trip will be Sophie’s first time out of the US, and she wants to change her perspective on the world: “I want to become more humble, grateful, and open-minded because of the trip and the experiences I will have.”

Sophomores

Angel Bao

Angel is a sophomore in Court from Beijing, China. She chose this trip because of the chance to go to a continent she has never been to before, but is also a bit nervous about the new environment. She is excited to work with the students, make long lasting relationships with people on the trip, and learn to appreciate a new culture. Angel has also played the piano since she was 5.

Becky Young

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Becky is a sophomore in Tower from Canton, Michigan. She chose this trip as she wanted new experiences culturally and the events on this trip allow her to do so, and a goal is to come back knowing or having seen something she never has before. She is excited to go to the elephant sanctuary and to form connections with the kids at Christel House and is nervous about giving a bad first impression on the kids in the workshops. One fun fact is that she has skied since she was four but switched to snowboarding at 12.

Jenna Pae

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Jenna is a sophomore in Linden from Yorktown, Indiana. She chose this trip as she wanted to go on a trip that encompassed both cultural enrichment and service opportunities and felt that South Africa was the perfect combination of that. She is most excited about seeing the vibrant culture of South Africa and most nervous about jet lag. A goal of hers is to learn about the daily lives of the people of South Africa and be able to have good conversations with the students of Christel House through the Compassionate Listening workshop. One fun fact: Jenna is a brown belt in karate.

Paloma Guerrero

Paloma is a sophomore in Ithaka from Mexico City. She has always wanted to go to South Africa and hopes to get out of her comfort zone, enjoy as much as she can, and learn about the different culture. She is excited to meet the students at Christel House and for FOOD, and is most nervous about jetlag coming back. An interesting fact is that she has had over 10 fractures.

Rose Hittle

Rose is a sophomore in Court from Indianapolis, Indiana. She wants to learn, experience a new culture, and widen her perspective while helping others, and is excited to meet and create bonds with students from Christel House as well as learn about South African history. She is most nervous about flying on the plane for a long time to a new country and continent. A goal is to make friends with new people and be willing to try new things. One fun fact is that her name can be repeated to form a sentence: Rose arose in rows of roses.

Taylor Lewandowski

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Taylor is a sophomore in Ciel from Culver. She is excited to learn, experience, and grow in a new culture, as well as visit Christel House and form new relationships. She is most nervous about the plane ride. Her goal is to bring a brand new journal dedicated for this trip only, and have time each day to reflect and write about what she did and experienced each day. She also wants to be present mentally and not just physically while taking everything in day by day. A fun fact is that she is really good at “the worm” dance.

Freshmen

Angela Zhang

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Angela is a freshman in Benson dorm from Fremond, California. She chose this trip to help those in need and is looking forward to leading workshops and visiting the elephant sanctuary. She is most nervous about safari animals and bugs. One of her goals is to learn words in a different language and meet new people. A fun fact is that she can turn her wrist 360 degrees.

Katherine Beeson

Katherine is a freshman in Atrium from Houston, Texas, but she lives in Culver. She was initially interested in this trip because of her membership in LCA, but after learning more she really wanted to be a part of it. She says that “it seems to be a trip where many friendships are made, both with students at Christel House and fellow Culver students. It is also a great oppurtunity to learn about the history of South Africa, and to develop leadership skills. As a freshman, I think this trip will be a great way to start off my Culver career.” She is excited to meet and exchange stories with students at Christel House as well as visit the elephant sanctuary, and is most nervous about the flight as she has never flown over water, had a long flight, or experienced jetlag. She has also never left the country before. One of her goals is to learn as much as she can about leadership and teamwork and expand her global perspective.

 

Tanzania – Last Day of Safari and Coming Home

Photos by Mrs. Strobel and Jason

Unfortunately, Sunday was our last day on safari. On Sunday, we were at Ngorongoro Crater park; in order to see the best animals, we had to wake up at 4:45 to get to the park before sunrise!

While driving down to the crater, my safari vehicle, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, listened to Regan’s Lion King music to pump ourselves us. Our driver, Ollie or Babakuku (Grandpa Chicken) told us that Pumba means “foolish one” in Swahili, and we already knew that simba means lion. We were so excited as we headed into the crater while watching the sunrise.

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Sunrise at Ngorongoro Crater

The first animals we saw in the crater were different types of birds, from guinea fowl to an awesome secretary bird posing on a tree. We also saw some warthogs, wildebeest, impala, zebras, and more early in the morning. Unfortunately, we also saw a hyena that was sick and struggling to move. We really hope that the hyena did not have to suffer much longer. Luckily, we did see some healthy hyenas.

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Some zebras and wildebeest grazing on the vegetation
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A great capture of a hippo opening its mouth!

We were so excited to see some elephants on Saturday, and today we saw even more! Regan counted 42 elephants.

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A herd of elephants in the distance

One of goals for Sunday was to see cats, and we were so lucky to see approximately 19 lions!

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We were lucky to see a male lion so close to the vehicle!

One of the highlights of the day was seeing 4 black rhinos! Black rhinos are critically endangered animals, and many tourists don’t have the opportunity to see any black rhinos, so we are incredibly lucky to have seen four. Unfortunately, black rhinos are also victims of poaching, so we chose not to post photos to protect them from poaching.

We also had some emergency bathroom issues while in the crater. Also, when we stopped for lunch, a huge bird swooped by and took Ophelia’s chicken!

We are so fortunate to have been able to experience these three amazing days on safari; it was absolutely unreal.

After departing from Ngorongoro Crater, we headed to the Smith Campus of the School of St. Jude, which is the secondary school campus. We stayed there for the night and enjoyed our last dinner cooked by Peter–delicious beef and pasta and veggies.

On Monday, we spent the morning at Cultural Heritage, which includes cultural art exhibitions, shops, and cafes.

The Cultural Heritage Gallery

Our facilitator and one of the interns at the school, Wens (Wenseslaus), wrote us an amazing card that we got to read on the way back from Cultural Heritage. We miss Wens and all of the other St. Jude Staff a lot and are so grateful for how hard they worked and how much they helped us throughout our stay at the school. Our 10 days in Tanzania were a life-changing experience and it is, in a huge part, thanks to everyone we met in Tanzania. We’ll be thinking about all of you. Thank you!

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The card from Wens – thank you so much!

When we got back, we had lunch and then went on a tour of the Smith Campus with Wens and Innocent.

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Group photo with Peter, our chef, and Wens and Innocent, the interns
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Group photo in front of the school with Wens and Innocent, the interns, who took us on a tour of the campus

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No girl allowed in the boys dorms!
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No boy allowed in the girls dorms!

After that, we had a couple hours to pack or socialize before heading to the airport. No one wanted to leave Tanzania, and we were even joking about “accidentally” dropping our passports out the window.

All jokes aside, our journey was very successful; we got through each flight and customs without a problem and arrived at Culver at around 6 PM.

Thank you so much to everyone who followed our blog in the last few days! Also, thank you to everyone who made this trip possible and to everyone that allowed us to go on the trip!

Tanzania – Safari Day 2

We woke up at 5:15 on Saturday and had a great breakfast at the hotel before heading to Lake Manyara, a national park near the edge of the Rift Valley, a little after sunrise. Lake Manyara is a wonderful park with freshwater lakes, forests, as well as open grassland.

Safari is what many regard as the quintessential African experience, and our day at Lake Manyara definitely lived up to our expectations. Regan was especially excited because of our first elephant sighting; later in the day, we were right in front of two elephants crossing the road, which was absolutely incredible. Though we did not get to see the lion or leopard we were hoping for, we saw other amazing animals, including the vervet monkey, lots of zebras, and some groups saw a dik-dik. We also saw a bunch of hippos peeking up from the lake.

Here is Regan’s reflection about the elephants:

Regan Murphy ’18

My goal for this entire trip was to see an elephant and to my excitement, we accomplished this goal. On the first day of our safari, I desperately looked out the window with my binoculars pressed up against my eyes hoping to see an elephant. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any (real) elephants on the first day, but I was hopeful we would see one on day two. The next day rolled around and I listened to Disney’s The Lion King through my headphones on the drive down to Lake Manyara. I was feeling really optimistic and told my car that I had good vibes about this park and was confident we would see an elephant today. About 15 minutes into our drive, our vehicle, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, came to a rolling stop as we approached a large rock. To my surprise, this rock turned out to be a real African Elephant. Mrs. Strobel shouted back to me and said “Regan, elephant, 8 o’clock!!!!” I sprung up from my seat and looked through my binoculars; I finally saw an elephant in its natural habitat and I was in shock. The elephant adjusted its body to a position where you could finally identify that it was an elephant. I wanted to make sure I captured the moment, so I took way more pictures than one person would ever need of an elephant.  Thankfully, this was not the only time we spotted an elephant during this adventure. I kept track of all the elephants we saw today and I recorded 16 elephant spotting’s in Lake Manyara. My favorite ele experience occurred an hour into our drive. We were swerving around one of our cars because they were driving too slow, when we happened to see rocks rustling through the vegetation. Two GIANT elephants leisurely strolled passed our car. They were not even 5 meters from our car when they casually walked down the road and through the bushes in a majestic manner. I took an incredible video of the elephants and was so amazed at the calm nature of these creatures. Erin whispered to the elephants “Do you want a Pringle?” as they passed our car. I will never forget this moment and feel so blessed to have witnessed such a beautiful animal. In total, we saw 58 elephants during our three day safari.

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The elephant from close up!
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Another photo of the elephants
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The zebras!
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Spotting of the vervet monkey!

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Here is a list of the animals we saw today:

  • olive baboons
  • silvery cheeked hornbill
  • african elephant
  • yellow billed storks
  • hammerkop
  • impala
  • wildebeest
  • southern ground hornbills
  • cape buffalo
  • spurwing goose
  • oxpeckers
  • greycrown cranes
  • egyptian geese
  • blacksmith lapping
  • thick-knee
  • hippopotamus
  • african jacana
  • glossy ivis
  • sandpiper
  • crowned lapwing
  • vervet monkeys
  • zebra
  • maasai giraffe
  • warthop
  • waterbuck
  • flamingo
  • dik-dik

After driving around the park, everyone participated in the tree top sky walk. Here’s Lily Thorgren’s reflection on the activity:

Lily Thorgren ’21:

“The highlight of my day today was the tree top sky walk. We climbed up stairs onto platforms and then onto shakey bridges. The bridges increasingly got higher and higher. Although I was timid, I went onto each one. It was really exciting to get a new view from new heights. My ultimate favorite time on the bridges was the facial expressions of comedian, Erin Postma.”

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After the tree top walk, we returned to our hotel for a great lunch. Then, we headed towards Ngorongoro Crater, where we stayed for the night. On the way, we stopped at a couple stores to pick up souvenirs and snacks.

At a shop, Tom bought a spear, which was one of his goals for the trip. He bartered a lot on the spear. Later, when we arrived at the hotel, Tom decided to “sacrifice” Jason in order to see a rare black rhino on safari.

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Tom’s “sacrifice”

We had an early night to prepare to wake up extremely early the next morning, as the best sightings often happen very early.

Funny moments of the day:

Erin and Sierra played a practical on Evan.  We had arrived at the Ngorongoro Crater and were admiring the view from the top the crater from a railing.  Evan let Erin use her binoculars and quickly gave them to Sierra to hide them.  “Evan, did you like your binoculars?” Erin asked Evan while looking over the banister.  He quickly started to search for them over the railing before they told him they had taken them.

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There are no binoculars visible in this picture, but they are in Sierra’s hand before the joke.

While taking pictures at the top of the crater, a party from Zimbabwe started taking pictures with the non-black members of our trip.

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The party from Zimbabwe started taking pictures with us.

Day 5 in Tanzania: Last Day at St. Jude

Today was a rather bittersweet day; although we are excited to be leaving tomorrow to go on safari, it also means that it is our last day with the amazing students, interns, and staff that we have met with the school.

This morning, we had the safari briefing with three members of the Safaris-R-Us team, and they told us some guidelines about the adventure. One thing that one of the men told us was that many people will wait 30 or 40 years of their life to experience a safari, so he told us to really treasure the experience and learn as much as we possibly can. We also received some amazing gift bags with safari hats and earrings.

After the briefing was an art class hosted by Mr. Kefis, the primary school art teacher, and the St. Jude students. The Culver team, which was joined by CMA grad Evan Heckman ’06, paired up with St. Jude students who helped us tie dye shirts. It was so much fun and we ended up with a huge variety of results.

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Students hard at work making their tie and dye t-shirts
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A fun group picture in front of all our creations!
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Ally’s polaroid picture of everyone and Diego’s shirt in the background

After the tie and dye, we headed to another amazing lunch of ugali with beans and vegetables. Then it was time to say goodbye to the students that we had all become so close with in days.

Today, we had another three groups go on home visits. Here are there reflections on their experiences:

Xuanchen (Apple) Li ’20

This afternoon Ben, Lily, Mr. Strobel and I went to visit Adinary’s home. He and his mom warmly welcomed us at a bus station and guided us to their rented home. The house was really small with a bed, a couch, a small table, and a few necessities placed on it. It soon became a bit crowded after the four of us, his family, and some neighbors managed to fit in the room. His mom served us hot ginger tea, fried banana (my favorite), and sweet potatoes making us feel welcome and comfortable. As a student who just entered St. Jude this year Adinary still needed a little help from the translator to communicate with us however this did not stop us from having a meaningful conversation. Adunary is a 7 year old boy currently studying in second grade at St. Jude. He in interested in reading and math and wants to become a pilot. While he was a little shy towards us, his mother told us a lot about their lifestyle and her son’s education. She really appreciated that her son passed the admissions test of St. Jude and obtained the opportunity to receive a free education. I was impressed about the way she valued the chance of an education for her children. In fact, she rented the small house near a school bus stop in order to take care of her son and support him. Aside from the conversation, we also bonded with Adinary through playing Uno games. I also shared him my hometown of Shangai through the photos on postcards. Our pleasant visit ended with a group photo outside his home. The visit is definitely unforgettable for all of us.

Jingwei (Ariana) Qin ’21

Ms. Strobel, Kaycie Schlichenmaier and I visited Rosemary’s residence this afternoon. Rosemary is a 3rd-grade student in School of St. Jude. The main goal of this visit is to get a better understanding of the students’ life beyond school.

We picked up Rosemary and one of her relatives at the school bus stop so that she can show us the way to her home. After five minutes of bumpy ride across a busy market, we arrived at her home. Her mother welcomed us passionately and we greeted back with the Swahili we learnt prior to the home visit. She prepared Tanzanian ginger tea, peanuts and bread to welcome us. The food is simple but thoughtful. She even provided us with an opportunity to cool the tea by pouring it back and forth in two cups and an opportunity to rinse our hands.

We brought Rosemary and her family some gifts to thank her for this precious opportunity to visit. We brought her coloring pencils and necessities for her family, including soup, cooking oil, rice and seasonings. Because her house is not electrically powered and there is no window, the interior of the house is always dark. We brought the family a solar powered lamp with the hope that it can help Rosemary do homework. As part of the present, we gave Rosemary a set of Uno cards. We taught the family the rules and played with them as entertainment.

After we spoke to Rosemary’s mother, we learnt that the whole family reside in this one-room mud house. Her family member includes her parents, one older brother named Chris and one younger brother named Musa. They collect water from a tap nearby, cook on a small stove in the room and use an oil lamp and candles to light the room at night. They have to remove the couch we were sitting on and put a mattress on the ground to fit five people sleeping in the room at night.

Rosemary mentioned that her greatest hobby after school is reading story books borrowed from the school library. Unfortunately, because it is Easter holiday during our visit and students weren’t allowed to keep books during holidays, she wasn’t able to show us the book she is reading. Her favorite subject is math and her favorite sport is net ball. She teaches her younger brother after school. She stated that she wakes up at 6:30 am and arrives at the bus station to take school bus at 7:40. Speaking of spirituality and religion, she is Christian and goes to church every Sunday.

Joining School of St. Jude’s for only about one year, Rosemary is still developing her English and is quiet. However, according to Ms. Strobel who visited Rosemary last July during her previous visit to the school, Rosemary’s English and communication skills have already developed drastically and she has become more willing to talk. I believe that this is the magic of education. It helps Rosemary and thousands of other children like her to become confident and it builds a bridge of communication for them and the outside world. Connecting to the story of Felix, the visitor manager, I am amazed again by how powerful education is. Felix’s education ceased at 7th grade because he has too much housework and thus failed the national exam. Therefore, he was only able to do manual labor and his life was hard. He learnt English gradually and after some struggles, miracle happens: he got a job as a bus driver at the school and an office job as visitor manager. With this change in career, his living condition improves. While I am glad for Rosemary can access to education, I am also touched how much they value education and how hard they work given all the resource they have. Although her house is not powered, she still studies, reads and teaches her family at night. She loves her education and she seeks for extra recourses. She is very bright and picks up the card game quickly. Her living condition is not nearly as good as mine but she is eager to knowledge. The visit to the school taught me that a seat in classroom is privilege. The home visit taught me more: everything, even food, a clean bed and light at night should not be taken for granted. The visit gave me a vivid image of the student’s lives; it reminded me that is should be grateful and use my privilege better.

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Mrs. Strobel, Kaycie, and Ariana at Rosemary’s house

Leela Willie ’18

This afternoon I went to the home visit with Jacob, Ophelia, and Sophia’s mom with Felix as our translator to spend time with a St. Jude student and her family. We visited Subira, a 9 year old second grader who lives with her mother, Mary. The commute from the school to her little abode was approximately a 20 minute drive through the bustling city of Arusha. Before this day, I never expected to arrive at a village of make-shift homes behind a store front. Most of these homes consisted of a single room with a bed fit for two, a couch, and tubs stuffed with miscellaneous items. Once we arrived, to her compound we were greeted with tons of joy from her mother, friends, and neighbors. There was not much conversation with her beyond her experience at St. Jude’s and Mary’s experience through motherhood. It was explained that she is a single mother who dropped out of secondary school and moved to Arusha to take a job as a maid to take care of her daughter. Although their living conditions are not the best you could clearly see the excitement and gratitude within the faces of Subira, her family, and neighbors even through Mary and Subira have no electricity nor running water, they are aided and supported by their community and relatives. The simple things in life such as education and the support of one’s community are essential for happiness.

After the home visits, we had Swahili lessons with the interns back on campus. Unfortunately, after that, it was time to say goodbye to all of the incredible interns.

At around 5 PM, we had story time with Felix, the visitor coordinator of the school. Felix told us his incredible story; he is a Maasai man who failed his exam in 7th grade and wasn’t able to go on to secondary school. Forced to go home to tend to the cows, Felix decided he wanted to become a driver. Felix’s goal was to learn English, and he was overjoyed when he received a job at an international company; however, Felix wasn’t able to learn very much English because the boss he drove was not very talkative, and he decided that he would get a job at the School of St. Jude.

Felix tried everything he possibly could to get a job as a driver at St. Jude, going to the school many times but failing to get a job. Because he knew that drivers who knew English would be preferred, Felix even wrote a speech about why he wanted to be a driver, asked a man who knew English to translate for him, and memorized all the English words although he could not speak the language. When Felix finally got a job as a driver, he learned English with the help of the students who drove his bus. He even got into trouble with the Head Driver because he would often go to classrooms or the library when he was not driving students. Because of his relentless persistence and drive, Felix was able to move to an office job–the visitor coordinator. Gemma told us that Felix has six times the salary he was making as a driver. I could tell that the whole team was reflecting about Felix’s incredible story.

Before the delicious dinner of pasta and chicken, Evan talked to us more about what to expect while on safari. Finally, we had a great deal of time to reflect on our past couple of days.

On behalf of the whole team: thank you so much to the School of St. Jude! We are so grateful for every single person at the school.

Note: thank you so much for keeping up with our blog! We’ll be going on safari from tomorrow until Sunday and will have limited access to Internet or no Internet. Pictures and reflections will be posted when we get back if Wi-fi is not available.

Day 4: Mudslide in Tanzania!

Guest Blogger: Erin Postma

We started out this morning with a meeting with the School of St. Jude founder, Gemma Sisia.  She answered all of our questions and we got a lot of insight on her life and why she started the school.  She also gave us a lot of advice on how to be happy and successful in our future lives.  She told us to follow our passion, rather than focusing on making money, even if your parents do not agree.  Sorry, Mom!  We spent about an hour listening to her Australian accent.

After our meeting with Gemma, we started the long bus ride to the Maasai Boma.  St. Jude had put together a team of Maasai that worked at the school to help out with the trip.  People like Felix, Frankie, and Francis all helped translate and explain Maasai culture.  On the bus ride there, Sierra, Janelle, and I started out playing chopsticks and I Spy.  We taught Francis how to play chopsticks and I Spy, which was a lot of fun.  After that, we played a new game we created called “Guess that CGA Leadership Position.”  Mrs. Strobel was super proud.

After finishing our boxed lunches and giving Francis most of our bananas, Felix set out to buy a goat for a gift for the family we visited.  We pulled into the goat market, but Felix would not let us get the goat because if they see wzungu, they charge wzungu prices.  He bartered and got 2 goats, a mom and a baby.  Kaycie and I sat with them on the bus.  They really liked Janelle, too, much to her dismay. The goat peed on Janelle’s jacket and shoes.Kaycie and goat

We arrived at the Boma with thunder rumbling in the distance.  The obstinate goats would not go to the Boma, so Jason dragged them there.  Upon arriving at the Boma, it started pouring rain, so we huddled inside one of the new building the family had built.  The rain quickly stopped, so we went outside again and Felix explained how Maasai chose their wives.  After going in the chief’s hut, Felix explained a little bit of Maasai medicine.  They boiled cow’s feet with some bark and fed it to the children as soon as they started feeling bad.  It is kind of like Maasai AirBorne.  The thunder was slowly becoming louder, so we had to walk back to the bus.  Because the path to the Boma was so muddy, the bus had to park far away after it dropped us off near the Boma so we did not get stuck after the rain.  We said goodbye to the children and embarked on our trek back to the bus.

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Sierra with two of the Maasai children

We walked back to the bus.  Janelle, Kaycie, and I led the pack with Felix catching up to us later.  The mud was slippery and sticky after it began to rain more.  The mud was sticking to the soles of our shoes, making it heavy and slippery to walk.  Kaycie tried to kick the mud off her shoes by flinging one foot in front of her, but while she did the the other foot slid out in front of her, causing her to wipe out on her side, leaving her pants and coat covered in mud.  Of course, then I was doubled over from laughing so hard and walking that I feel right on my knees.  It is true what they say, karma is a jerk.

We got to the bus and we were all muddy, wet, and tired.  We went to the coffee store which had a little shop next to it.  We got iced coffee and teas, which are way better here than in the States.  Then we went to the little shop that was near the coffee shop. The store was a craft store that employed handicapped people to make crafts and sell them.  Things like jewelry, hand blown glass, paintings, and clothes littered the shelves.

After the coffee run, we went to the fabric store and the grocery store.  We went to the fabric store first.  We nearly bought the whole store.  Pillows, notebooks, cloth, skirts, dresses, aprons, scarves, and Tom’s sarong filled our brown paper bags as we continued to go to the register after realizing there was more in the store we wanted to buy.  I think Sierra went up to the register 4 different times.  Following the fabric store, we went to the grocery store and stocked up on pop, candy, and coffee beans.  The bus ride home was filled with coffee-fueled energy and our rendition of “Jambo Bwana.”  All of the native Tanzanians (and Gina) cringed at our singing.

Back at the school, we had rice and beef, my favorite meal so far.  After dinner, we all rushed to wash ourselves and our mud-caked clothes.  I showered with my clothes on. After showering, our night was filled with Euchre, Uno, and Dominoes.  We are excited to see what the rest of our trip will bring!

Guest Blogger: Leela Willie

My overall takeaway from today was that children who live in poverty are gifted and more likely to succeed in school. From my experiences with the St. Jude students, I’ve noticed that they are highly determined and passionate for their education. Unlike how we Culver students complain about our stress and the unfair options we have, our condition is in no comparison to what Tanzanian children face when attempting to earn an education.

This morning we met Gemma Sisia, the founder of the School of St. Jude. At a young age, Gemma spent three years away from her home, in Australia, to teach in Uganda. She discovered that she would build a school in Africa where children would receive a free education. After a $10 donation and a generous gift from her father-in-law of two acres of land, the School of St. Jude was established in 2002 with three students and one teacher.

Learning from Gemma, education is not easily accessible in this country. Because there are fewer secondary schools only 25% in the nation pass the grade 7 national exam. Classes are taught in the English language in government secondary schools (form 1-6 which compares to American 9-12), many people struggle in school because their classes are taught in Swahili during their primary years of school. Once a child reaches secondary school, they must pass another round of academic exams in order to enter the next grade. If a child fails the exam, they are done with their education.  According to the WHO, Tanzania and Liberia are countries with the least number of medical doctors. Hearing this today, definitely encouraged me to focus on my dreams of becoming an OB/GYN. I’ve always dreamt of building a women’s health clinic in my family’s hometown of Monrovia, Liberia, and after hearing Gemma’s story today, I hopefully will follow in her footsteps.

After our session with Gemma, we travelled South of Arusha to visit a Maasai family. Because this was the first time this family has received “Mzungu” (colloquial term for white people) visitors and it’s standard practice, we bought two female goats from a market as a gift for the family. It was a worth the trip of having the two smelly goats on the tight bus with us to see their joy (even though the little one peed on the bus).

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Jason holding the mama and baby goat!
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Two of the Maasai huts. In Maasai culture, men are allowed to have many wives and each man owns a hut while each wife has one hut.
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The Maasai children jumping during a traditional song

While at the Maasai Boma, I met Dora, a 17-year old girl who is one of fifty children and in Form 5 (similar to 11th grade). Being a part of such an enormous family and remote community, it was amazing to discover that she spoke English. Living in a community ostracized from the main towns, this young woman has passed all of her challenging exams, and still manages to teach what has learned in school to her family. She explained that her commute to school every day consisted of long, early-morning walks through her village and hours of bus rides, just reach school on time. We had a well-rounded conversation. She questioned me with so many wonders about America–our education, our housing, whether or not people use machines to cook or do laundry. It was amazing to see.

Dora and Leela

With rainy weather on the horizon we quickly said our goodbyes and walked back towards the bus.  We discovered why the bus cannot drive on the muddy pathway, where it was wet it turned into clay on our feet adding extra pounds (and in some case inches) to our shoes.

After our muddy trip from the Massai Boma, we ventured to the Shanga Coffee Lodge, where disabled citizens of Tanzania craft and sell clothes and jewelry. Being such a charitable person, I bought at least one of every item from the bracelets down to the dresses. I went bananas when we ventured on our shopping trip. Although, I am very keen when it comes to shopping for clothes, I had no restriction when it came to spending my money on a plethora of African crafts and clothes. While the majority of our team returned with two bags of souvenirs, I dragged my feet back to my room with four bags and a large African-print pillow! Going on through my mind while raiding the stores, I convinced myself that all of my money was being spent for a good cause…and it was!

 

Note: We don’t have any pictures of the Shanga Lodge, but here is the link to a website. It’s a store with beautiful items that supports individuals that are often marginalized and ostracized, and I would really recommend the store should you ever find yourself in Arusha. – Janelle

Guest Blogger: Ben Brummell

After an exciting but exhausting day, the group settled down for a relaxing and delicious meal. You could tell everyone was reflecting upon the sights and wonders of the day. As the trip has progressed, we have come to cherish these interactive and insightful times to bring the team closer together, with plenty of games and discussion. We continue to embrace and soak in all that presents itself and look forward to the days ahead.


We’ll have some more busy days ahead and will be leaving for safari Friday morning, so get ready for some amazing pictures!

Day 3 in Tanzania

Photos by Mrs. Strobel, Sophia Moore, Ally Kim, Regan Murphy, Isaac and Wens

Today was another very eventful day.

Though the St. Jude students are on Easter break, they came to the school today to meet us. In the morning, we introduced ourselves to each other and enjoyed several icebreaker activities where we got to meet several students from St. Jude. One of these activities was the Inside/Outside Circle activity, which is something we commonly do at Culver; we had a circle of St. Jude students facing outwards and a circle of Culver students facing inwards, and we were able to talk to different students.

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The circle activity

We also split up into pairs and made a five-count handshake with our St. Jude’s pairs.

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After the team activity, we had a delicious tea break with ginger tea and bread, and then headed to play volleyball, soccer, basketball, or UNO.

Another highlight was the African drum lesson; St. Jude students taught us some skills on the drums as well as taught us their school song and the Tanzanian national anthem. It was amazing to see how willing the students were to share their culture with us.

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Then, for lunch, we had a unique dish called ugali, which is mashed maize, along with delicious greens.

After lunch, the students took us on a tour of the Moivaro Boarding Campus or the primary school boarding campus. My partner, Ess, was so happy to show me her own dorm room where eight students live. The students also had various animals that they take care of–chickens, fish, and bunnies.

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The St. Jude’s multipurpose building where the students have lunch and assemblies.
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Group photo with the Culver and St. Jude students!

After parting from the students, we had one of the most poignant experiences of the trip: visits to the homes of young St. Jude’s students.

Reflection by Ally Kim ’20

Jason, Mimi, Erin, Wens (our translator) and I had the opportunity to go on a home visit to one of the students at the School of St Jude. Her name was Eva Valentine Shirima, and she just began attending the School of St Jude this past January as a first grader. When we reached Eva’s mud/wood house, her mother, aunt, and neighbors welcomed us by saying karibu and offering us fried bananas with salad (you may think that this is an odd combination, but trust me they were amazing), peanuts, and ginger tea. While eating, we got to learn more about Eva and her family. When we asked how Eva heard about the school, one of her neighbors explained that her younger sister graduated from the School of St Jude. When she met Eva’s mother, she suggested that Eva also applies so that she can receive quality education. My favorite part was listening about the family’s reaction when Eva was accepted to the School of St Jude. They told us that they were overexcited to hear that Eva passed the interview and the exams. Apparently, they all cheered and celebrated when Eva received her school uniform. Hearing about the family’s gratefulness for Eva’s education at St Jude made me realize how much hope the School of St Jude brought to the families, and it inspired me to support the school mission and values even more.

After the meal, we presented Eva’s family with the gifts organized from the school. In Tanzania, families like to receive practical gifts that can be used daily in the house, so we presented them with items like soap, rice, Vaseline, etc., but we also added an UNO card game. Before our departure, we played a round of UNO with the family to teach them the rules. Overall, Eva was the sweetest girl ever, and although she was extremely shy at first, she began to joke around with peanuts once she got to know more about us. Her mother was so caring, and it was incredible to see how even the neighbors all loved Eva and wanted the best for her. I am so thankful that I got this opportunity to visit Eva’s house because now I know more about the families of Arusha and what impacts the School of St Jude has for the students’ families. I hope the best for Eva and her family’s  future, and I am so glad that Eva received this opportunity to study at St Jude.

Eva's home visit group

Reflection by Sierra Grant ’20

Today was quite an experience. Upon walking into a family’s home in Arusha they were very welcoming. Mwanaidi is in third grade at St. Jude. Her family was very kind and welcoming and even the neighbors were welcoming. They all greeted us with a song. Mwanaidi was very shy but, a very sweet girl. One thing I learned about the community around her is that everyone is sharing. No matter how much or little a family had they are also willing to share with each other. We came into the home and they gave us Tanzanian sweet potatoes, nuts, and ginger tea. It was all very good. As we entered we also gifted them a basket full of items that would help the family and found out that they would share with their neighbors as well. We asked the family, “What is your favorite part of Tanzania?” they replied and said the love and peace. It made me think that they will do anything for their community and support one another. This home visit showed me that community and family is everything and the love and support of everyone can make a difference. The family even asked us questions about Culver and where we are all from and when Mama Dee (a dorm mom in Tower) told them she was like our mom, the family thought she was actually my mom and was wondering how she could be my mom if I am black and she is white which we all found very funny. As we were talking about Culver one of the neighbors asked how she could come to our school because she thought it was amazing. I found that question to be very interesting because Culver is a once and a life time opportunity and this girl wanted to be a part of it. Towards the end Mwanaidi had a gift but was very indecisive on who to give it to. The gift was a black bracelet with green, yellow, and blue writing of Tanzania. After our visit we took a picture with the family and then took a picture of the family and will send it to them when we can. I am very glad I went to this home visit because it showed me the life of a student in Arusha and also the life of a family. I learned that the mother wakes up at five in the morning every day and when Mwanaidi is at school she is selling vegetables. This was a great experience and I hope to come back one day and contribute.

Mwanaidi's familyMwanaidi's neighbors and family

Reflection by me (Janelle Li ’19)

Saidi, a second grader at St. Jude, was looking very sharp as he waited for us at the bus station dressed in his uniform. When we got to the house, I noticed that there were many people waiting for us–we learned that Saidi’s mother, his aunt, his mother’s best friend, and his family’s landlord were all waiting in the house. It was really admirable to see how tight-knit of a community this was and how everyone was so incredibly proud of Saidi.

There were so many people and the house was so small that there was not enough room for all the hosts to sit. Though the family is struggling financially, they quickly offered us delicious ginger tea, sweet potato, and peanuts. When I was busy sipping my tea, Saidi’s mother’s friend even asked me why I was not eating the sweet potato. This made me reflect upon the value of hospitality in African culture; even though they had very little, they were still amazing hosts and really treasured the ability to be a good host.

It was touching to see how compassionate Saidi’s family was. When we gave our gift basket to the family, Saidi’s mother told us: “Thank you, we love you so much.” Upon leaving, the family even presented us with a wrapped gift of a beautiful African wrap skirt.

Throughout the visit, we chatted with Saidi and his family about their lives and Saidi’s experiences at school. The family was so willing to answer any questions we had. I am so grateful for the experience; it was truly indescribable and I hope that one day, I can visit Saidi and his wonderful family again.

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I really hope our experiences today inspires you to cherish what you have. Though I always complain about school, every St. Jude student truly loves their education and loves studying because they know how incredible of an opportunity they have been given.


After the home visits, we had a great deal of time to reflect on the visits and our days in general, and shared our takeaways from the trip with the group.

Finally, we had a blast during family game night!

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Day 2 in Tanzania

Photos: Mimi Servin and Mrs. Strobel

Reflection from Mimi Servin ’18:

“It is unbelievable how a person can touch your heart and move you so deeply. Today was a day full of moments to be remembered forever. The Maasai people we met today were the most welcoming and including people we have met, so far. The children, women, and men in the community were so open and shared so much of their beautiful culture. Personally, I can say I connected with them. There was a Maasai woman whose name is Miriam too (or at least sounded like that). Even though she did not speak any English, through some of the children or people with us that spoke Swahili, we were able to communicate perfectly. We asked so many questions about their families, their traditions, and just life in general. The time together seemed to be only 5 minutes instead of the actual 5 hours we spent with them. However, I think I will let the pictures I took express what I can’t with words.”

 


 

We had a jam-packed and all-around amazing second full day in Tanzania.

In the morning, the interns, Wens and Irene, who graduated from the School of St. Jude, took us on a tour of the school. We were able to see the art classrooms, the kitchen, and even the class rankings and Wens’ classroom from when he was in primary school.

At around 10 AM, we headed to the O’Brien School for the Maasai. On the way, Wens taught us a Tanzanian song which we have kind of memorized. We also donated many crocheted hats to the school, and Tom took a video of his hat on his GoPro. At the school, we met up with Perry Huggins (CGA ’09), who is currently working at the school. Perry took us on the tour of the school where we were able to see some of the classrooms, the school garden, and the kitchen. Some students even examined the reverse osmosis system at the school.

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Four Maasai women that work at the school posing!

 

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The women were delighted to see the Polaroid picture that Ally took of them.
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Miriam posing with two women that work at the school–at the left is another woman named Miriam!
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A Maasai woman busy preparing food in the kitchen

 

After the tour, we got to interact with the 4th and 7th year O’Brien students, and it was fascinating learning more about their lives. We also played basketball and soccer with the students. Then, the students were able to purchase handmade traditional Maasai goods created by the women in the tribe, including beautiful and vibrant jewelry, apparel, neck pillows, and more. The fabric and jewelry stores helped to support the women in the tribe.

Playing soccer with the O’Brien students!

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Diego, Ben, Jacob, and Henry posing after the soccer game
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Ally and Regina posing with the women who sold us the jewelry, with some of their items on display in the background.
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Regina posing with the jewelry makers and one woman’s children!
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Regina, Diego, Regan, Tom, and Leela posing on the path in the Maasai village.
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Culver and O’Brien school students posing with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background!

One of the highlights of the day was buying three sheep! Erin, Kaycie, and Tom were running after the herd of sheep and trying to catch one, which was a hilarious sight for both the team and the locals. We gave each sheep to a family in need, and each sheep paid for a full year of a child’s school tuition.

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Kaycie and Erin proudly posing with their sheep!
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Erin posing with children of the three families that the sheep were given to. Erin’s grandpa donated the money that allowed us to purchase the sheep.

Regan and Jacob playing with the Maasai children.

After catching the sheep, the students got to participate in the incredible Maasai jumping dance ritual. For the Maasai people, how high one can jump is a measure of one’s power and manliness, and we saw the men take turns jumping. The Culver boys also tried their hand at jumping, and we all participated in the tribal songs and dances together. The women and men treated us like we were their own and were so eager to share their fascinating culture with us; the women even shared their jewelry with us for the ritual and the men showed us how they made fire out of donkey dung. Also, Erin received a marriage proposal and Kaycie was officially welcomed into the tribe. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it was a truly surreal, incredible experience that I will never forget. Erin told me that today was the best experience of her life, and I know that this experience truly resonated with me.

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The Maasai men’s jumping ritual

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A Maasai man holding the tribe’s smoking donkey dung

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After we said our goodbyes to the group, we headed to Khan’s Barbeque for dinner; Khan’s is a unique store that is a mechanic shop during the day and a restaurant at night. We had a delicious meal of chicken, naan bread, lamb, beef, some veggies, as well as an interesting Indian dessert made of honey and flour.

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The team posing with some of St. Jude team and Maasai men and women

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