As I think about our team that is currently visiting the project sites in Tanzania, I can only begin to imagine how meaningful this trip must be for them. The leadership of Achieve in Africa displays tremendous dedication to the projects they support from overseas. I’m sure it brings them a new kind of joy to see, in-person, the work that has come out of a dream conceived 4 years ago.
Contemplating their experiences, I am reminded of how I was fortunate enough to witness a dream become a reality during my five-month stay in South Africa. While teaching at a small primary school, 23 international students, including myself, had the pleasure of getting to know a student body that displays an incredible amount of potential but faces a wide variety of obstacles to their education. We were amazed at the resilience of our students and their ability to remain joyful in the face of challenges such as mental and physical disabilities and domestic issues. We quickly fell in love with our students and were eager to dedicate much more of our time and resources to the school. One of the needs we recognized was for a safe, defined space in which the students could play. Out of this realization, Project Playground was born. Through collaboration with the students, teachers and the school’s administration, we designed a playground that suited the needs and interests of the students and was realistic for the available space. In order to get the word out about our project and raise the necessary funds, we sent out donation letters to family and friends, made commercials and videos about our project, and solicited help from local businesses. Within three months we reached our goal of raising 3,000 USD.
The day before I flew home from South Africa, we hosted a celebration for the playground opening at the school. The project came to its culmination for me when I was able to see the kids play on their playground for the very first time. Even if I had not been able to see the playground constructed before I left, I would have felt satisfied knowing that we had raised the funds and the project would still be completed. I am so grateful, however, that I did have the opportunity to see the physical manifestation of our work and to watch the children enjoy their new play space – to see them slip gleefully down the slide, to hear their laughter and excited chatter, and to witness them set aside their worries and simply enjoy being kids. Now that I am back in the United States, it is the memories of that day that stay with me the most and motivate me to pursue work in international development.
I imagine that the stories and memories that our team gathers during their trip will stay with them, as well, and will renew in their passion for Achieve in Africa’s work.