Marywood on a mission to Morogoro

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Megan McGraw, Online/Multimedia Editor

While some students will begin their summer break in May, a few students will be traveling to Tanzania on a mission to enrich others.

In collaboration with the African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC), Sister Margaret Gannon, chair of the social sciences department, will take four students from Marywood to teach the English language to African students and sisters as part of Project Bigwa Secondary School.

The program was developed by ASEC, whose goal is to provide education to Sisters in Africa with the understanding that they will then impart their knowledge to the women of Africa.

The four Marywood students will spend most of their time at the Bigwa Secondary School in Morogoro, Tanzania. Students attending Bigwa Secondary School are in need of tutoring in written English.

In Tanzania, Kiswahili is the primary language; however, students are required to take their national exams in English.

“They need to know how to put together a paragraph and an answer,” said Sister Gannon.

The exams consist only of essays and a good score could mean either going on to college or not.

The children in Tanzania begin learning English at the elementary level much like American children would in middle school; there is a definite lapse in teaching the language according to Sr. Gannon.

“[Students] take all their classes in English, but they don’t understand it,” said Sister Gannon. She explained that sometimes the teachers do not comprehend English themselves.

For some students, English may be the third, fourth or fifth language they are learning.

“It’s difficult for them, but it is also unavoidable,” said Sister Gannon, “If they didn’t do that, Tanzania would be out of touch with the rest of the world.”

Not only will Marywood students be helping teach English to students, they will also volunteer at a local orphanage for two days. The students will mostly be in charge of entertaining the children, which will give the students another experience in Morogoro.

While the trek to Tanzania is arduous, the application process to get there was just as involved.

Devon Chakiris, senior psychology major, explained that students had to fill out an application including past service experience, which Sister Gannon said was important.

“I’ve been doing service for a lot of years and it just kind of fell into my lap and it has been a dream come true,” said Chakiris.

In addition to the application, students had to attend a face-to-face interview. “It was a crazy process,” said Chakiris.

Along with Chakiris, sophomore Spanish and History major Riki Schwalb, sophomore nursing major Colleen Traub, and junior nursing major Audrey Arel will also be attending the Morogoro trip.

Once selected, the students traveling to Tanzania took a three-credit course in preparation for their trip. The class includes lessons on Tanzanian history, economics, customs, politics and culture. Students also learned Swahili phrases.

Fundraising was also an important part of making the trip possible. Each student is required to raise $1,300. Through donations, donut sales and “Pennies for St. Patrick,” students have worked to raise the proper funds. Students also reached out to faculty for donations. Faculty members could donate $87 to sponsor a student for one day. “It’s an expensive trip,” said Sister Gannon.

Chakiris said she is excited to take this trip and to have this experience. “Going to Africa has always been a dream for me,” she said.

The students will be leaving on May 24, and it will take them nearly 27 hours to arrive in Morogoro, Tanzania. While the trip will be beneficial to the students of Bigwa Secondary School, Charikis believes it will also enrich the lives of Marywood’s own.

“Meeting new people is very precious to me. To be able to connect with someone who is so different [culturally], but we’re still all human,” said Chakiris.