Trading Squirrels for Monkeys

* (en) Tanzania Location * (he) מיקום טנזניה
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By Karissa Kriedler
Staff Writer

That’s right! Some of our very own classmates will be trading in their view of the frequently seen scurrying  squirrels of Marywood’s campus for that of monkeys in Africa.

Of course, this service trip is about much more than catching a monkey swinging from the tree-tops in between classes; it is about offering assistance and educational opportunities to young women who otherwise would not have such opportunities. These students have a chance to help a struggling country gain the education and independence they need to give its peoples a secured place in the rapidly advancing technologies of the world.

Nina DePalma, Katelin Haley, and Marin Braco, three of the Marywood students participating in this honorable journey, say in addition to helping the students of the Bigwa school, they also hope that this trip will provide them with a deeper understanding of the Tanzanian culture in which they will be submerged.

The African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC), which Marywood is a part of, is an organization that has been working for the past eight years to educate young African women. Schools and computer labs have been developed to assist this process in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

The Bigwa Sisters Secondary School, located in Morogora, Tanzania, is one of these schools which, although originally intended to educate studying sisters, now includes a vast number, two-thirds of the school’s population, of young African women simply seeking an education and better opportunities for themselves as well as their families. The Hilton Foundation has also been adding to the educational efforts being made and has asked Marywood to help provide leadership training is areas such as financial management and project planning which, along with their education, will help advance the countries economic standing.

Unfortunately these young African women have to overcome yet another obstacle before they can truly assert themselves in the growing industries and economies around the globe, or even in those of their neighboring countries.

As communication is important to interacting with outside businesses and industries, the students of Bigwa Sisters Secondary School, and other schools like it, must break through language barriers. The national language of Tanzania is Swahili, or Kiswahili, which everyone in the country speaks, reads in, and is the standard language of education in elementary school. The difficulty arises in secondary school as these young students, after only two brief years of instruction in the English language, are expected to take all of their classes, as well as extremely difficult written exams, in English.

Dean Kurt Torell made a proposal to ASEC to do so and upon its approval the participants have been preparing ever since.

Sr. Margaret Gannon, in collaboration with other actively involved professors from Marywood, as well other schools, has been educating the student participants heading to Morogoro in the history, politics, economics, culture, and social structure of Tanzania, as well as learning some Swahili and communicating with pen-pals from the Bigwa Sisters Secondary School. Additionally, Marywood’s participants will be meeting the participants from Chestnut Hill, another contributing university, to establish a level of teamwork, so the group can learn to work together before arriving in Tanzania in order to ensure that the trip will be as successful and effective as possible.

The participants are set to fly out on May 19 to coach the young women in written English for their exams, which are held during the first week of June. Although some grant money has been designated for the cause, additional fundraising is needed. Many groups and volunteers within the school will be offering a multitude of opportunities for you to contribute what you can to this worthy cause.

Keep your eyes peeled for T-shirt sales, and basket raffles, because these events provide you with the chance to contribute to the Bigwa Sisters Secondary School. As this first experience in Africa is a pilot service trip, if all goes well, many more trips to help such schools are hopeful possibilities.

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