On March 28th, the Shukuru Staff took the 39 girls currently in the pilot program for their first field trip. They visited Meserani Snake Park in Arusha, Tanzania. The Shukuru staff (JoAnne, Shukuru’s Executive Director along with the the amazing field staff members Priyam, Dennis, and Haggai) were joined by Donna, a friend of Shukuru. Donna was wonderful enough to write us a blog post about the trip….
Shukuru Girls make their first field trip
Can you imagine never having left your home town? Not even for a day? Can you imagine never having seen a plane take off, even though you dream of being a pilot? Can you imagine on your first trip ever away from home holding a snake and riding a camel?
Shukuru girls’ everyday lives are routine; their experiences limited to their home, farm, and school. So I was privileged to be part of their first field trip, which took them two hours away from home to the Meserani Snake Park near Arusha. The Snake Park offers a chance to learn about snakes and other reptiles, the opportunity to hold them, and even ride a camel.
The girls sang non-stop at the top of their lungs the entire bus ride to and from the park. Surely all of Tanzania could hear them! They belted out local songs and familiar ones such as ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’, and even dedicated lyrics from, ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It…’. to everyone involved on the trip, including Jo, Shukuru’s Executive Director, the local field coordinators, the volunteers, and even the bus driver!
When we arrived at the park, the girls were suddenly struck silent by their unfamiliar surroundings. What were they feeling in this moment? We crossed the language barrier with some creative sign language and as the day progressed, the girls’ body language changed; their previous confidence and openness re-emerged. Their eyes lit up when they saw something new, a reminder that education can mean many things and happen in many places. What a gift for them to experience this and what a gift for me to witness it!
Each girl had the opportunity to hold a snake or have it placed around her neck like a slithery necklace. Some girls fearlessly embraced the opportunity, but others were simply happy to live vicariously through their intrepid peers!
Next up was camel riding! Three girls rode a camel together while gripping the handlebars at the front of the saddle, and in some cases, clinging to their friend. White knuckles, anyone? It was pure joy to watch as they were lifted up to the sky, their laughter a mix of joy and anxiety. The most memorable moments of the day came when the girls were lowered to the ground, their expressions suddenly turned to pure terror as the tall camel jutted forward, then considerably backward, and finally safely to the ground!
Hungry from all the excitement, we took a break for a lunch of butter and jelly sandwiches and oranges. Dessert was lollipops, but they didn’t come easy! To earn a lollipop, the girls participated in a rousing game of ‘head, shoulders, knees, and toes’, winning lollipops by successfully identifying – in English – the body parts the fastest.
As we traveled back home, I told the girls that I was leaving Tanzania soon, but spending the day with them was truly the best part of my trip. I was immediately asked, “When are you coming back?” I replied, “soon” and the girls shouted in response, “tomorrow?!” followed by an invitation from 11-year-old Margret to spend the night at her home. My heart melted for the millionth time that day.
The girls’ day of excitement was almost over. One final treat awaited though. These girls aspire to be many things, things that for now they can only dream of. Some aim to be teachers, or pastors, or lawyers. Some yearn to be pilots, even though they’ve never even seen a plane close-up. On the way home from this day of incredible experiences, it was topped off by one more.
As we drove past the airport, we watched a plane take-off.
This tiny event, so routine to us in the US, held the girls’ attention until the plane was out of sight.
My wish for each of these girls is that their lives are like that plane, taking off to new heights, to new sights, to new places and to all the possibilities that await them now that they are on the path to an educated future. And that they look back on this day and know, as John Wayne once said that “courage is having fear but saddling up anyway.”
With love and gratitude,
Thank you Donna for such a lovely post. And you can see more pictures from the day on Shukuru’s Facebook page here