Professor Ellen Brinks took a group of students to Livingstone, Zambia this summer. For three weeks, they took part in experiential learning and internships through our Colorado State University Study Abroad program (and African Impact). We asked a few of them to send us pictures and let us know how it’s going, tell us more about what they are doing and experiencing. Here’s the final report from Morgan Bennett, Amira Noshi, and Alexandra Pinion.


~from Morgan Bennett

During our time in Zambia, all of us on the community education projects assumed we were the teachers. That was even the idea that sold me on the idea to travel to Livingstone: teaching and impacting children in a country across the world. Little did I know that going to Zambia would transform me from a teacher into a student.

I entered the 7th grade class at Libuyu Primary School confident in my teaching ability; I have had fantastic education teachers at CSU who have prepared me for anything. On top of that, I have aspirations of teaching middle school students in the U.S. But when you hear a 7th grade class, a group of 11 year olds is probably what comes to mind. That is not the case at Libuyu: the students go to school when their family can afford it. This means that the age range in the class can be from 11 to 19. This can be difficult because students are at developmentally different places in their life, but are all still learning the same curriculum.

Halfway through my duration at Libuyu Primary School, my host teacher, Coastah, told me that 13 of his students could not read. At this point, I was cursing myself for not packing my E402 Teaching Reading Interactive Notebook, Teaching Grammar Through Writing by Keith Polette, and Kylene Beers, When Kids Can’t Read. It was a real frustration for me to have only three weeks with these students who needed help past what my time could give. This was my next lesson as the student. To me, teaching students digraphs seemed a small feat; I felt disheartened that I only had time to teach them so much. But that’s not the point: teaching students what noise “th” makes may be small, but it’s leaps and bounds away from where they were before they learned that. And sometimes life is about the connections and experiences you have, not the amount of information that is learned.

In Zambia, 7th grade is the testing year. This means that at the end of the three terms, students must take a test to see if they can continue their education in secondary school. If the students don’t pass, it will be the end of the road for many of them; schools and families both cannot afford to support that high volume of students in the class for a second year. I learned a disheartening statistic that 77% of students in the Zambian school system will not graduate from secondary school. It hurts my heart, because like the students in America, these children have high aspirations. Many of them want to be doctors, engineers, and teachers: all jobs that are desperately needed, but also require a high level of education. Although it’s hard to know that all of the students in my class may not make it to secondary school, I have the hope that all the knowledge they have learned from their great teachers throughout the years can take them into the future to accomplish any dreams they put their minds to.

The 7th grade class at Libuyu Primary School with soccer balls donated by the CSU English Department

The 7th grade class at Libuyu Primary School with soccer balls donated by the CSU English Department


~from Amira Noshi

We’ve been back for nearly two weeks now and I think I can speak for all of us when I say, no words can describe our individual experiences. Overwhelmed by the seemingly harmless question of “how was it?” I find it hard to even write about now, having defeated my jet lag and adjusted back into my daily life.

Spending three weeks working in the Cheshire Home, a school for children with disabilities, has changed my perspective completely, being immersed in the daily lives of the inspiring students and teachers of Cheshire homes reminds me to challenge myself in all aspects of life.

The Cheshire Home was conveniently located just around the corner from the hostel, so Katie (my partner in crime) and I could enjoy a nice stroll every morning before starting a unique day. Cheshire Home had two classrooms, separated by grade levels with Charity teaching the older kids and Evelyn braving the younger class. Charity and Evelyn were not only responsible for the everyday lesson plans, but also for administrative duties, and often they were called away from class leaving Katie and I to either continue the lesson or completely improvise the rest of the day.

Playing a game where the object was to hit the newspaper with a rock, whoever hit the most wins!

Playing a game where the object was to hit the newspaper with a rock, whoever hit the most wins!

During these times we really got to know the kids, we learned that Mildred has some pretty sweet dance moves, Mushabati is a math wiz, and Veronica can command a classroom better than Katie and I combined. I experienced a spectrum of emotion while working in Cheshire, with days that were difficult – hair was pulled, faces were kicked, and tears were shed – and I had days where there was no place or group of people that I would’ve rather been or been with, reiterating my changed perspective and reminding me constantly of why I opted to go to Zambia in the first place. We were forced to make due time and time again, and each time Charity, Evelyn, Katie, and I managed to make it work.

Lifah! One of our brightest and smiley-est students!

Lifah! One of our brightest and smiley-est students!

Evelyn and Charity were nothing short of inspirations. Both of them demanded authenticity from everyone inside and outside of Cheshire, encouraging the kids and community to face adversity as a team. We witnessed that time and time again, with the donation of food by the religious community of Zambia, allowing Evelyn and Charity to host the braii (barbeque) that provided the funds for a school trip to Lusaka for a nationwide sports competition and again at the braii itself, when Evelyn and Charity (and some of our group members) let loose and fully embraced the ideals that they instill in the wonderful kids of Cheshire.

Student Andrew shows off his amazing football skills to fellow volunteer Fiona during sports

Student Andrew shows off his amazing football skills to fellow volunteer Fiona during sports

No words can describe my trip to Zambia. I’ve tried over and over again to find adjectives that manage to condense all the memories created. Replaying them in my head leaves me with a warm sentiment, all the friends we made, all the truly amazing experiences we had, all within a span of three weeks. I think we all as individuals went on this trip for a vast array of different reasons; in the end we all gained so much from the community we both built and dove into in Zambia. No regrets, none at all.


~from Alexandra Pinion

Leaving Livingstone can only be summed up in one word: bittersweet. For the most part, I think we all made Livingstone Backpackers our home away from home. We settled right in, made fast friends with the other volunteers as well as the staff, and shared memories that can’t be easily transposed through writing or simple images that we had taken from our time here. It is something that we share, but we must all be prepared to condense this three-week experience, and to tell our family and friends back home in as much (or as little) detail as we can how we fared in Africa.

What I had gathered from talking with the friends that I’d made was that yes, we were probably ready to go home now, to sleep in our own beds, cuddle our pets and significant others, and relax in the sweet Colorado summer sun, but we were also incredibly sad to leave. There were tears and enough hugs to last a lifetime on that last day, yet I think we all realized that these feelings extended from the strong bonds that we all made during our short time in Livingstone. If only we had a little more time…

I remember the last few days as trying to soak up every bit of my surroundings. During the bumpy van rides, I took mental photographs of the big mango trees (unfortunately for us not yet in bloom), and the clear blue sky, the red dust that got all over everything and that was permanently underneath all of our fingernails, the loveable children that knew no boundaries, the pastel sunsets that somehow merged two opposing colors into something that could ever be captured except by the eye itself. I hugged the kids tightly, feeling a type of warmth and love that I hadn’t felt before with children that were so openly affectionate. I waved joyfully at the locals who seemed so happy to see us. I tried to pinpoint all of the personalities that were so wonderfully welcoming to us.

5th grade girls at Mwandi Community School

5th grade girls at Mwandi Community School

I think that three weeks was a perfect taste of what it would be like to live on the other side of the world. I know that I can adapt to another place, another climate, another way of life. Those three weeks in Africa affirmed for me that I can and should chase my dreams around the world of teaching and learning from other cultures that I may have had no idea about. My biggest hope is that in the short time I was there I was able to transfer some of my knowledge and culture as well, in order to offer a learning experience to those that so graciously welcomed me and took care of me during my stay.

I’m especially thankful now for social media, because even though I’m a half a world away from the projects and the people I was invested in during my time in Zambia, I can still see how they progress, change, and develop. I can still see the smiling faces of the kids I cuddled and the friends I made and their journeys. It was definitely difficult to leave this temporary home behind, but it was also such a joy to step outside of the airport upon arriving and have my sights filled with beautiful Colorado rolling hills and misty mountains, the green grass contrasting with the dark blue sky. It was difficult to leave behind the short life I’d made in Zambia, but when I saw that landscape I had been away from for so long, I knew that I was home.

The students at Mwandi always brought a smile to my face

The students at Mwandi always brought a smile to my face

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Bottom row, left to right: Kathleen Wendt, Nick Breland, Alexandrea Pinion, Nicole Marie Sutton, Jackson White. Top row, left to right: Amira Noshi, Jo Buckley, Acacia Sharrow, Adelle McDaniel, Alexandra Orahovats. Not pictured: Morgan Bennett, Katie Wybenga

Bottom row, left to right: Kathleen Wendt, Nick Breland, Alexandrea Pinion, Nicole Marie Sutton, Jackson White.
Top row, left to right: Amira Noshi, Jo Buckley, Acacia Sharrow, Adelle McDaniel, Alexandra Orahovats. Not pictured: Morgan Bennett, Katie Wybenga

Professor Ellen Brinks took a group of students to Livingstone, Zambia this summer. For three weeks, they took part in experiential learning and internships through our Colorado State University Study Abroad program (and African Impact). We asked a few of them to send us pictures and let us know how it’s going, tell us more about what they are doing and experiencing. Here’s the latest report.


 

Silas and Morgan Bennett together at Libuyu Community School. Silas is showing off his Art Club mask.

Silas and Morgan Bennett together at Libuyu Community School. Silas is showing off his Art Club mask.

Although coming late to the Zambia blog, I (Morgan Bennett, English Education Concentrator) am excited to be able to share a moment from my teaching experiences. (During my time in Zambia, I’ve chosen to volunteer in community schools, as opposed to working on community health projects.) In Zambia, education is not a right offered to all, but a privilege; and unfortunately it can be a costly one. Livingstone has two schooling options: community schools and government schools. The government schools can be far away from the outer provinces of town, or prohibitively expensive, so communities have created local schools to have their children educated in. The majority of these schools have minimal to no financial support from the government and, as I have come to understand it, operate solely on student fees and donations.

But what does this mean if the student can’t afford to pay the 50 kwacha (roughly 6USD) every term (3 month period)?

Unfortunately, I had the opportunity to find out. If the students don’t pay the fee, the teacher asks them to leave the school; from talking with students, this means that the up to an hour trek they made that morning was for nothing. In the course of 5 minutes, the class I was volunteering in went from 40 students to 4. Although usually very obedient, the students were unruly at being forced to leave the school for the day and miss a chance to learn. Outside the barred windows, students stared into the room, begging to be taught, crying out, “We want to learn!, we want to learn!, we want to learn!”

Most of the students trickled back over the next few days, scraping up the money they needed to attend school. Some students still show up everyday, in hopes that the teacher will let them in regardless of unpaid fees.

English student Jackson White with sixth graders from Libuyu Community School.

English student Jackson White with sixth graders from Libuyu Community School.

In the U.S., education is compulsory, and students celebrate days off and breaks from homework. But there is a lesson in this. Although in America we have a right to be educated, we must remember what a privilege that right is.


Hi, everyone, this is Amira checking back in with a report on a very special project designed by African Impact for our CSU Group here in Livingstone: to build a compost bin out of “ecobricks.” By densely stuffing and packing plastic water and soda bottles with plastic waste, you can create an ecobrick, eliminating unsightly environmental waste. A fun and easy way to collect trash and make use of it, EcoBricking rids areas of toxic waste degradation, ensuring a safer area for all the residents of Zambia. It also provides the materials for much needed infrastructure, because you can actually build structures with ecobricks, including benches, chicken coops, and even large buildings, such as schools.

Local Linda Farm resident working on the compost with CSU.

Local Linda Farm resident working on the compost bin with CSU.

EcoBricking provides an intersection between poverty and the environment. More often than not, communities in Zambia are forced to choose between sending their children to school or paying for trash pickup.

EcoBricking has been utilized in one small Livingstone community named Linda Farms, a local area where families live and receive support from the community. Africa Impact has made it the centerpiece of an incredible new afternoon project for volunteers, with our CSU group on the forefront of this incredibly cool practice.

Ecobricking to create a compost bin.

Ecobricking to create a compost bin.

After everyone returns from his or her morning projects, i.e., teaching or healthcare, we eat lunch and prep for our afternoon projects. For CSU, that usually means grab some plastic, pick axes, and sunscreen, load up on the Muzungu bus, and head to the farm.

Guided by our fearless leader Alex from African Impact, we’re greeted by the kids eager to help (especially with stuffing the EcoBricks). There’s an area sectioned off where we are assured that our hard work will be safe from pesky elephants. We break off, some to EcoBricking, and some to manual labor. Working as a team we’ve made great strides. A foundation consisting of rock, topped by ecobricks, has been laid, with a concrete reinforcement. On top of that foundation, we’ve started laying down EcoBricks.

 Professor Ellen Brinks with Linda Farm Community children making ecobricks for the CSU compost project.


Professor Ellen Brinks with Linda Farm Community children making ecobricks for the CSU compost project.

EcoBricking is an extremely sustainable practice, and hopefully it will start trending in Zambia and the rest of the world.


Hello! This is Alex, with an update on my time in Zambia. We’ve all worked extremely hard on this trip. We have early mornings for our teaching projects, and long hot afternoons with community projects like Eco-bricking at Linda farm, helping out at Maramba Old People’s Home, and after school projects like reading, maths, and art clubs. We’ve been rewarded greatly for this hard work though.

This past weekend we had the opportunity to visit Chobe National Park. Chobe is about an hour away from our temporary home in Livingstone, in the beautiful country of Botswana. The safari began with a boat ride on the Chobe river where all of us were in awe of the elephants out for a morning swim. This was our first encounter with African wildlife aside from the pesky mosquitoes – or, as the British cutely call them, mossies. On the river we saw several elephants, some hippos, crocodiles, and many birds, including the fish eagle – the national bird of Zambia.

safari

Despite the early morning wake up call and hourlong journey to Botswana, after the boat tour we were full of energy and excited for the afternoon game drive. We strapped in to the vehicles to prepare for the bumpy ride through some of the 11,000 kilometer-square park to our campsite. We realized the boat tour was just a small taste of what we would see in the afternoon.

Upon our entry into the park, we immediately encountered monkeys rooting through the trash, baboons in the trees, and so many beautiful birds. Our group was split into two vehicles, one led by Ace and one lead by Odi. They were so knowledgeable about the wildlife and taught us about how the plentiful impala is nicknamed the McDonalds of the animal kingdom (not because it is easy, but because it is very fast food for many of the predators if they are able to catch it).  From there we saw giraffes peeking through the trees as we drove down the road into the river delta.

The view was beautiful and breathtaking. We encountered more elephants, which are also very plentiful; we later learned that the park contains about 100,000 elephants able to roam in and out through the seasons (the greatest density of African elephants on the continent, it turns out!).

The rest of the day was surreal. We expected to see wildlife but not so much and not so close to us. What was even more surprising were our evening lion encounters. On safari, I think we expected that we’d see elephants, impala and maybe giraffes, but the big cats are elusive and one can never count on seeing them having only a weekend. The lions, though, roamed all over the roads. We were lucky enough to catch a pride of females with a fresh Cape Buffalo kill by the river, with the hungry eyes of the crocodile peering out of the murky water waiting for its chance to drag the lions’ kill from them.

As dusk approached, the roars of the lions became audible through the din of the engine. Ace told us that lions roar when trying to find each other. That meant that the male – the king – was possibly around, and a sighting would be “very rare.” Sure enough, we parked the vehicle, and see him sauntering lazily up the hill, the picture of the red African sunset as his backdrop. Our day was topped off with the most amazing vision, reminding us how lucky we are to be here on this amazing continent.

safari04

Our campsite was in the midst of all this wilderness, and our ears pricked up to hear the sounds as only sheets of fabric shielded us from multiple prides of lions, warthogs, hyenas, and all the things we hadn’t seen but knew were there. Despite all this we rested easily, our bellies full of delicious food and imaginations enlivened with stories from our guides.

We woke before the sun to see more animals. Again, we encountered the majestic male lion, just as the sun was coming up. His demeanor was relaxed and regal as he got ready for his day of sleep. After leaving him to his business, the CSU caravan departed to see more sights of the Chobe morning. These included an elephant carcass covered in scavenger birds, such as vultures and marabou storks. Later we saw other birds as well: majestic fish eagles and the beautifully colorful lilac-breasted roller. But there were a few animals we hadn’t yet seen.

safari02

“You’re not keeping your eyes open,” Ace tells us, as he slows the vehicle to point out a few zebras, perfectly camouflaged in the brush. As we inch forward, we see more and more of them, and finally come to a clearing with a herd of zebras near the water. We learned that a group of zebras is called a dazzle!

safari03

After a much-needed siesta, we knew that our amazing time was limited. After being dazzled by the zebras, in awe of the lions, surprised by the giraffes, enthralled by the many types of beautiful birds, plus so many more animals we had never even heard of, we began our exit. This wasn’t without one last encounter though. Over in the brush, almost hidden and skulking, was the elusive leopard. We were so lucky to have spotted her, and by this time we had seen almost everything that Chobe had to offer.

We were exhausted and dirty, our bones jostled by the hours of bumping around, but we all left the park feeling transformed. Nothing can compare to being inches away from the famed African wildlife. Maybe some of us will visit again, maybe some of us will never return, but we have all been able to share this experience together, and that alone is enough to last a lifetime.

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crisisandcreativity

Seeking ways to reinvigorate the conversation between the Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Sciences, from July 22-24 we’ll be holding a symposium at Colorado State University. Organized by CSU professor Dan Beachy-Quick and made possible with funds from the Monfort Professorship generously awarded to Beachy-Quick, the symposium will focus on bringing together artists, writers, scientists, and scholars from multiple fields, not simply to present ideas already formed, but to gather together and consider new approaches to dealing with today’s most pressing difficulties.

Of the symposium, Dan Beachy-Quick says, “Our hope is to re-integrate the Arts into the largest concerns facing us today, from ecological disaster to social injustice, holding to the old belief that in the arts we have the longest, most comprehensive record of what is to be human and face situations where our humanity is threatened—often by our own hands. We’re concerned with the ways in which creativity, be it in words or in making, experiment in lab or on page, are required to have an open, honest, attentive engagement with the world.” In a recent interview, he also had this to say about the symposium.

Guests invited from across the country will assemble in Fort Collins to study and collaborate with esteemed poet and activist Brenda Hillman, visionary artist Michael Swaine, and CSU’s own and pre-eminent environmental scientist Diana Wall. Morning sessions, guided by Hillman, Swaine, and Wall, will give way in the afternoon and evening to events open to the public. Each afternoon will feature a “maker’s space” in which invited participants and interested community members will have the chance to collaborate on a variety of projects addressing the driving concerns of the symposium: crisis and creativity. Evening events include a reading from Brenda Hillman and a panel discussion, moderated by Dan Beachy-Quick, with the three featured guests.

 

Events Open to the Public (all events on CSU campus):

Wednesday July 22

  • Maker’s Space Collaboration, Ceramics Studio, Art Building (2:30-5:00)
  • Brenda Hillman Reading, Morgan Library, Courtyard (7:30-9:00)

Thursday July 23

  • Maker’s Space Collaboration, Art Building (2:30-5:00)

Friday July 24

  • Panel Discussion, University Center for the Arts, Organ Recital Room (7:30-9:00)

 

For more information, please find our website http://crisisandcreativity.org and/or contact us at info@crisisandcreativity.org.

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