Laura Jacxsens tells us what it is like being a volunteer on the Education and Community Support Program at Kilmanjaro. Although she finds all of her work extremely rewarding, she explains why the Maasai Literacy Program has become her favorite project of all!
“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” – B.B. King
In Moshi, there is never a morning where I wake up without being excited about the upcoming day. It's quite the opposite actually; I can't wait until I’ll be standing in front of the classroom again to teach! I love every single project I’ve worked on this year and last. From teaching nursery kids some basic English, to talking about social issues in a secondary school all the way to spending time with the elderly (or wazee, as we like to call them here) at the old people’s home, and so on. All of them are really different, but evenly fulfilling.
However, if I had to pick my favourite project, it would be the Maasai Literacy Program. In this project, we teach our Maasai students how to read and write in Swahili, as well as some basic English vocabulary and conversation. In their culture, it's not really a habit to go to school. As a result, there's only few jobs they can apply for when they come to Moshi. Most of them are security guards at night. Learning to read and write, as well as speak English, increases their employment opportunities immensely.
So why is this my favourite project? Well, there's tons of different reasons, but let me try to list them up for you. First of all, their motivation and determination to learn is simply never ending! I’m still stunned by the fact that they work all night and come to class in the morning for four days a week. They must be tired of working all night but still make the effort to come and try their best in class. Learning how to read and write is also a really long process since they haven't gone to school and weren't taught the alphabet. Nevertheless, they never give up. Whenever they get a lower score on their spelling test, they come back the next week and keep on practicing to get a higher score on their next test. When they eventually score really well, they’re extremely proud and smile from ear to ear! I’ve never met people that are this eager to learn.
Another thing I love about this project is the bond I’ve created with my students. I truly feel like we've become really good friends, despite the language barrier. It's amazing how we can communicate with little bits of Swahili, English and non-verbal communication. Every Maasai student has it's own personality and it's so great to discover it. I’ll definitely miss them a lot when I am back home again (which might be the only negative part about this whole experience).
What I also noticed and absolutely loved when I came back this year was seeing the progress they’ve made in a year’s time. It's amazing to see that all students I taught last year have moved up and that most of them are still coming to class daily. Some of them even graduated from the Literacy Program and now go to Community Class where they work hard on learning English! I feel so proud. I am not only proud of their determination and progress, but also proud of all the other volunteers and African Impact staff who have taught them. I can't wait to see them progress even further!
One last reason why I adore this program is the impact it makes on their lives. Being able to read and write opens so many doors for them: they can get their dream job, they see the importance of their children's education, they can read books and newspapers which can educate them even more; The list is endless!
As you probably already noticed, there are many reasons why I love working with the Maasai. There hasn't been a day where I didn't leave the classroom with a big smile! I feel so honoured and thankful to be able to get to know them and their culture so well. Once again, these people are a true inspiration and I think we could all learn from them. I’ve been teaching them for several months, but I think they taught me as much as I taught them (if not more). I feel privileged to be able to work with the most inspiring people I’ve ever met!