Grass Roots Education

I just finished an amazing stay in the Serengeti of Tanzania. I’ve been here for 6 weeks, involved in 2 different projects that are community outreach programs of the Grumeti Fund. Grumeti combines conservation, sustainable tourism, and community outreach. I worked on two projects: Language Immersion Camps, and volunteering at the Environmental Education Center.  Both projects were amazing experiences that allowed me to foster global connections, use my skills, and to work across borders to bring about positive lasting change in local communities.

It was chance that led me to Grumeti. As I heard about the Language Immersion project, I was hooked. It fit into my goal of working on grass roots projects across the world. You see, I love to travel, but I hate to be a tourist. Travel for me is trying to connect with real people doing real things in the new places I explore. The more I can foster global connections at home and abroad, the better!

Three parts of the Language Immersion program stand out for me. One is the incredible change in the students between the first day and the last day of the camp. Many arrived shy, timid, not understanding, not talking among themselves, and not participating. Everything was new, different, and using teaching methods and an English that was very different from their prior exposure. By the end of the week, they were laughing, singing, playing, participating, and using English to converse. It was very rewarding to see the students having fun using English, and even more satisfying when their comfort level, confidence, and English level let them participate fully and their different personalities shone through! This new confidence and increased motivation for English will carry well into their future. The second part that stands out is the incredible team of American students from Concordia College that formed the rest of my team. Their dedication, energy, passion, and caring were the heart of the program.The third part that stands out for me are the opportunities we had to ride the bus home with the students and have them show us their communities, learn some Swahili, and get a glimpse into their everyday life. In one week, we became a community learning together around common goals, and this will stay in our hearts for a very long time.

The next two weeks which I spent at the Environmental Education Center were equally amazing.  The week-long program for high school groups is to empower youth with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to become “ambassadors of the environment”. The students learn about conservation and how conservation can bring so many benefits to people, animals, and the environment. The program is a combination of classroom, fieldwork, field trips to see conservation in action, and community building. I learned much about conservation, environmental  issues in the Serengeti, and animals of the grasslands as I participated along with the students. Working with Tanzanian youth in the EEC filled me with hope for the future and motivation to build youth empowerment as agents of change. The students and teachers who attend the EEC are very motivated to help the environment through public awareness and action projects. They want to make positive change in their communities!

These experiences and the friendships I made will stay with me for the rest of my life! And not only that, but the experience of living in a game reserve, seeing animals such as elephants, buffalo and wildebeest roam freely and pass near the EEC was amazing.  Asante sana, Grumeti!

Written by Nicole Anderson