Friday, August 28, 2015

Red Jacket Dedication

As most people know by now, I will be doing a year of service with City Year in Cleveland this year! I am so excited for this opportunity to serve my community while furthering my own personal and leadership development. 

City Year is an Americorps program and nonprofit serving cities across the U.S. Corps members work in schools towards the eradication of the drop out crisis. This is done by working with a targeted group of students in math, English/language arts, attendance, and behavior. 

I will be proudly serving 3rd grade at Mound STEM School in Slavic Village for the next ten month! 

City Year is known for wearing the City Year uniform and the iconic "Red Jacket". At today's Red Jacket Ceremony I was presented with my own red jacket and all of the responsibilities that go with it. 

I chose to dedicate my red jacket to two things this year. First of all, I dedicated my red jacket to my mom, for intentionally raising me to value diversity and the humanity of others, even when those around me didn't. I also dedicated my red jacket to Holy Cross School in Grahamstown, South Africa. 

Thank you to everyone who continues to support me and my growth on this journey. I'm looking forward to the next ten month of service for City Year and using the skills and blessings given to me by my mom and HC specifically to affect change in my community. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On the Road Again...


Sorry again for the long break between posts. I am loving living at the monastery and working at the school and for Reading Camp Grahamstown. The monks have been such a support for me throughout my time here. I am so glad to have lived in this community. 

I have also very much enjoyed my time working with the grade 3 class and with Miss Babolwa. I have learned a lot about working in the classroom with her and with the children I have been able to form close relationships with. Working in school administration as also been eye opening and fulfilling. I have also learned a great deal of insight from Kary, the principal, and from working with her on planning Reading Camp and what that looks like in this context. 

Unfortunately, my application for my visa has been denied and so I have to leave South Africa pretty abruptly. I will be flying out to go back to the United States next Wednesday the 13th. I am so terribly saddened by this, but I am looking forward to what life will bring instead! 

I will continue to post a few more times on my blog in the next few months to remind myself of my time here and the people I met as well as to inform all of you what I have been up to in Grahamstown! 

Thank you so much for everyone who has been supportive through this year. More to come! 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Soul That Lives Within

Often at Holy Cross School where I'm working now I watch over the learners while they play before and after school and while they take their break in the day. A group of the grade 2 girls in particular has taken to hanging around me during these times. As we have gotten closer they've become more curious and questioning. This last week they've become interested in my hair which is so different from theirs. So I let them touch it and they try to make it look nice.

And then one of the girls made a comment that took me by surprise. She said that she liked my hair and that it was much nicer than hair like hers. Hearing this caught me off guard at first, and then made me sad and then made me reflect on issues similar that I have encountered in the United State and Burundi. (I have not been in South Africa long enough to comment on whether or not this is true here as well.) 

In the United States beauty, power, and knowledge are associated with whiteness generally. In Burundi as well, white people are associated with these attributes. White women are often proposed to, asked for money, asked for help in obtaining a visa, etc. White people are given places of honor despite their being no reason behind this honor other than the fact that they are white and assumed to be of high importance and honor. 

Some white people interpret this as welcoming or as curiosity about something foreign. But this was one of the most uncomfortable parts of living abroad for me. Not only that it put me in a position I was uncomfortable with, but what does it mean for those who are not in this 'honored' position? It sets an image that says that continues the colonial images and thoughts that white people are superior to black people. 

America and Europe and made out to be these places of higher intelligence, wealth, and civility. In the United States black people are told from a young age by our society that these things are harder for them to achieve because of their blackness, and that it is something typical of white society. 

But this has a negative impact not just on the individual but in the structure of a community. "If a young child is constantly taught that Europe is the pinnacle of civilization and that all good ideas came out of England, came out of France, came out of Germany, [...] they're not going to look within their own community and within themselves to see greatness. They're going to look outside of their community and aspire to that." 

I believe that this is true as well for the way that people perceive beauty in themselves. Again, I don't know about the dynamics of these things in South Africa yet. But I have had similar experiences in the United States and Burundi. Where girls assume that sleek hair is more beautiful than kinky hair. Why do we continue to teach this? 

In the documentary Dark Girls, one of the people in the film gives the following quote which I think speaks a lot to this issue. (If you haven't seen this documentary it is about the differential experiences of dark-skinned and light-skinned girls in the United States. I think it does a good job of looking at this issue from a number of different angles.) 

When you think of the overall physical body every single cell has its own unique purpose and function. And so if in this example a dark-skinned woman were the eyes and a light-skinned woman was the ear drum, why would the eyes work so hard to be the eardrum? And would it make sense for the eardrum to try to become the eyes? Its just important to be who you are and when you begin to acknowledge that, and begin to acknowledge that the experiences that you had have brought you to a particular point in your life where you have so much to give, and to contribute, you have so much to learn, then you can start really accepting and being certain and just own who you are. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

There And Back Again.... and around

I apologize for not having posted in way too long. I wanted to wait until some things were finalized before I published this blog post. So here are some updates!

My stomach is back on track! After many visits to the hospital/doctor in December in Cleveland I am feeling much healthier and working to 100%! I am so thankful that I was able to go back to the US and get treatment from a wonderful doctor at UH who took good care of me. I'm happy I found him and will be seeing him for the rest of my treatment. Thank you so everyone who supported me through those weeks and that process!

After leaving the US I traveled to South Africa where I met two friends from YASC and went on many fun adventures with them around Cape Town and the road to Grahamstown. We went shark diving, saw giraffes and lions, climbed a mountain, and got really sun burned. It was great to see Willie and Ryan, hear about their time in South Africa, and travel together! Thank you for an awesome two weeks!

Since coming back to Bujumbura it has become clear that I cannot finish my YASC year here. I am so heartbroken to be leaving this country. The people, the culture, the mountains all mean so much to me. I am so glad that I was able to come here and have the experiences that I did. I'm grateful for all of the people that I encountered and everything they taught me. I really have learned a lot while being here and will cherish the relationships that I've made along the way.

So, it is a little bittersweet to say that I will be finishing my YASC year in Grahamstown, South Africa. I am so excited and thankful for the opportunity to jump into this new ministry! Although I am scared of this step, I am also looking forward to meeting new people, new cultures and new mountains.

While in Grahamstown I will be working at Holy Cross School doing some administrative things as well as some teaching and playing! I am so happy to have found a new placement that I think will fit me very well.

I am also extremely excited for the possibility to work with Reading Camp in Grahamstown! Reading Camp has been such an influential part of my life and I can't wait to see what will happen next with Reading Camp.

 Keep looking for more updates from me! I promise to keep everyone updated once I am settled in Grahamstown! Thank you to everyone who has made this year possible. See you February 13th South Africa!

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Detour...

In Burundi there are many detours. There are detours to avoid traffic, to avoid the president's road when he blocks traffic to go play football (soccer) on Fridays, detours to see someone in the hospital before going home, detours that lead you on a 3 hour adventure through Bujumbura when you thought you where just going to grab a coke, detours that lead you to what seems like a million other places that leave no time for what you had originally set out to do, car problem detours, detours to buy a truck worth of fruit and vegetables on the way back to town, detours that lead to ice cream, detours that lead to new friends...

Many detours.

 Yesterday I decided to take another detour. Instead of traveling to Rwanda this week like I had planned (I should know better than to make plans) I will be leaving for the United States on Monday to take care of some health problems.

Turkey Carving!
 No, I don't have Ebola. I have been having Crohn's problems for the last few weeks and can't get treatment for it in Burundi. After two weeks I will go back to Burundi (and then head immediately for a previously planned trip to South Africa). I am not terminating my position, just need to get my health together in order to serve better.

The Crew
 I am sad to be leaving Burundi, but know I will return and know that I am so lucky to be able to travel to the US to get the treatment I need. An unintended consequence is spending Christmas with my family, which I am also thankful for, though I will miss all of my friends and family of Burundi on this holiday.

Brand new bikes help support the church's ministry!
The last few weeks I've been taking more Kirundi lessons, going to weddings, celebrating the 16 Days of awareness for SGBV, and writing a report with other provincial staff on masculinities and SGBV in Makamba (I feel like I'm writing my ISP from study abroad all over again).


The garden starting to grow that Emily and I built! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

One Single Body?

I wanted to write a more positive blog post about Thanksgiving and the things I am thankful for. I truly have a lot to be thankful for this year and every year. I know that.

But I’m also angry.

I’m angry at my country and my city. I’m angry at people of my race who are not bothered by the system that is set in place in the US and the consequences it has on so many lives – on family, friends, classmates, and moreover other human beings. I’m also angry at the country I’m currently in. At the inequalities that exist here. But also at the violence that is present and increasing as a result of both of these systems of inequality.

Either here or in the US, this violence hits closer to home every day. And I feel like I am surrounded by it.

But I know that in either situation I am privileged. I’m privileged because of the color of my skin. Because of the neighborhood I live in in Bujumbura. Because I have health insurance. Because if it comes down to it, I will be evacuated. And others won't. Because I can go home at the end of the day in the US and not worry about the color of my skin affecting my safety when interacting with police. 

I know that I'm privileged. But I'm still angry. How can we say we are all part of the same body, if we are all acting like many individual parts? 

There are many things that I want to share that I am thankful for though. 

I am thankful for those who are fighting a system that has been in place for too long in the United States. I'm thankful for those who are angered by inequality. I'm thankful for my family here in Bujumbura, and the opportunity to gather together today and eat some amazing food. I'm thankful for babies gaining weight who were born too small. I'm thankful for the internet which will (God willing) allow me to see and talk to my family in the US today. 

I'm sorry this post maybe isn't a complete thought. But here is a classic quote for the day: 

"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. 
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
- Lila Watson

Monday, November 17, 2014

Between the Lines: More to Read!

While you're waiting for updates from me, here are some other blogs you might want to check out!

These two are from fellow Americans living in Burundi! : 

Emily Ambrose works for the Province of the Anglican Church in Burundi as well! She is here doing projects with the development office related to agriculture and nutrition. She's here on part of her program from Cornell University with Episcopal Relief & Development. I've been lucky enough to work alongside her during her time here. 

Amy Marsico is working for the Friends Women's Association in Burundi as a Conflict and Peace-Building Practitioner. She does amazing work with this organization in the areas of providing health-care particularly to vulnerable women and people who are HIV+, empowering women, and peace-building initiatives. 

I also want to share the blogs of my fellow YASCers! They are working all over the world in service! 

Willie Lutes is in South Africa! He's working in communications for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa Environmental Network and Anglican Communion Environmental Network in Cape Town. Basically he is working hard and saving the planet from environmental destruction! He's helping to create a movement from within the Anglican Communion to address these issues. 

Kirsten Lowell is an amazing young woman working in Uruguay! She inspires me everyday to deepen my faith and to allow myself to define, question, and be confident in my beliefs. In the Diocese of Uruguay she is working as an Administrative Assistant for Special Projects.

Ryan Zavacky is living, praying, working, and teaching at Holy Cross School and Monastery in Grahmstown, South Africa. He is assisting teachers at the school and running an after-school program. He's also having quite the experience living and worshiping with the Brothers!

Dearest Kayla Massey is serving in the Philippines this year! She is also working very closely with Episcopal Relief & Development at the E-Care Center in Halsema. She's doing a lot of work getting her hands dirty with agriculture and food security programs!

Justin Davis III is "visiting ships and chillin' with Bishops"! He's working with the Mission to Seafarers in Hong Kong! He's really connecting with people and seeing some amazing things.

Rachel McDaniel is oh so patiently awaiting departure to Santa Maria, Brazil where she will be working with women's and youth ministries.  She is waiting for her visa before starting this wonderful work that she will be so great at.

Joey Anderson is working on a farm in Japan! Asian Rural Institute is his host for the year along with many chickens, ducks, pigs, goats, and gardens!

David Holton is another volunteer serving in the Philippines.  He's working as a teacher in an Episcopal secondary-school, using his many musical talents to enrich the lives of his students!

Elie Echeverry is another member of Team Africa for YASC! She is faithfully serving her community in Kenya this year!

Delaney Ozmun was a YASCer in Eldoret, Kenya that unfortunately had to end her year of service early. Her blog still offers some great insights into life as a YASCer in Africa in particular! And she is a great friend.

Judy Crosby is an honorary YASCer! She is a missionary for the Episcopal Church this year in Dodoma, Tanzania with Carpenter's Kids!

Another honorary YASCer, Bob Canter is serving in Honduras, building houses and whipping volunteers into shape!

Other Servers in Africa! 

These three don't serve in Burundi and aren't a part of YASC but they are doing amazing work, and I can certainly relate to a lot of their posts and reflections from life in Africa. 

Samantha McNelly has just started her service with the Peace Corps in Cameroon! She will be working in agribusiness after her training finishes in Ebolowa. I went to college with Sam!

Devin Johns is a volunteer for Young Adult Volunteers (YAV) which is the Presbyterian version of YASC! She's working this year in Zambia as a teacher for primary school children. Her blog is particularly insightful I think! Devin and I went to college together and attended Westminster Presbyterian Church in Wooster together! 

Lookman Mojeed is a poet, activist, photographer, and friend working for the Peace Corps in Cameroon as well! He's working in the health field and making a big impact on the community he is serving. We studied abroad and bonded together in Cameroon in 2012. 

Thank you all for reading!

The new 5th baby of Louis! (our helper at the house)