Dwankhozi Update…Thursday 6/27

Good news! By the week’s previous standards, tonight’s internet signal is excellent. Which means…a lot of blog for you. Pictures and words. Bear with me, I promise it’s all worth it.

Today was a full, full day. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. On the way to the school this morning, we stopped at the nearest health clinic to Dwankhozi. Which is EIGHT kilometers away. Led by our resident nurse, Beth MacLean, we donated a large bag of medical supplies to the clinic. The staff was extremely grateful and gave us a tour around their facilities (which, honestly, wasn’t much). However, this clinic is so, so important to the community, serving around fifty people per day. We left recognizing the need for a clinic much closer to Dwankhozi.

This little guy was a little unsure about the camera, but had his thumb to suck on for some support.

This little guy was a little unsure about the camera, but had his thumb to suck on for some support.

When we arrived at the school, our group sat down with the Dwankhozi teachers for an hour to talk openly about this new partnership. I think I can speak for our whole group when I say it was one of the most rewarding parts of this trip. It began as a time of exchanging thank yous and gratitude, and then moved toward desires and practical advancements of this relationship. We discussed how students can best communicate with each other, how teachers will stay in contact, and which educational needs are most pressing (lack of textbooks has come up a lot). Emotional and productive. Heartwarming and vision-casting. A couple soundbites:

Getting goofy with Dwankhozi teachers and staff later in the afternoon. We love these people!

“While being here this week, you have motivated our students. And we are very grateful for everything you’ve done for us. Hopefully one day, we can come to Queen Anne and motivate yours as well.” –Mr. Chimbalanga, Headmaster

“In life, at important moments, it can be very hard to find the right words to use. So, in short, we appreciate your efforts and your vision. We are now better teachers. We are now better parents. We are now better pupils. Better everything. And at the end of the day, our children benefit. So we thank you.” -Maurice Masala, Teacher

A couple of friends tracked down Rene to take a picture with her.

A couple of friends tracked down Rene to take a picture with her.

Every teacher has recognized the universal aspects of teaching and learning, whether from Seattle or Dwankhozi. And let me assure you, this is no token trip these QAE teachers are on. Their commitment to education, both in their own city and the community here, is inspiring. As a Dwankhozi teacher said today in our meeting: “This relationship that has just started should not end here.” And it will not.

In the early afternoon, our community celebration to recognize the Queen Anne Elementary and World Reader partnerships began. The importance of the e-reader program now in place at Dwankhozi was especially stressed, since it is the first of its kind in all of Zambia. Students, parents, school government officials, community leaders, local chief representatives and our group were all in attendance. It was incredible. Maurice Masala emceed the event, constantly encouraging us all with shouts of ‘Manja! Manja! Manja!'(which means ‘applause’ and is pronounced ‘Mahn-juh’) after speeches from attendees. He kept the mood light and fun.

We were treated to some amazing performances today by the Dwankhozi student choir.

And there was a lot to clap about. David Elliott gave an amazing speech, addressing the students of Dwankhozi instead of the adults, encouraging them to assist each other in learning together. Just a taste of his closing words:

“Keep working, pushing, trying. You will ask for help from classmates, and from your teachers. And your teachers and our teachers will work together for you. And you may ask why. It’s because it’s you here at Dwankhozi, and all schools in Zambia, in Africa, and in Queen Anne, and America. You are the future of our world and you are the ones who will make our world a better place. We love you and Zkomo (thank you).”

David and Bertha attempting to recreate the current Dwankhozi Facebook photo. Successfuly? Ehhh...

David and Bertha attempting to recreate the current Dwankhozi Facebook photo. Successfuly? Ehhh…

The Dwankhozi student choir also performed twice during the ceremony. First was a traditional warrior dance performed by the boys. Wow! So much energy, dancing, singing, and even leopard fur dress. Later they performed a medley of songs for us, harmonizing together so beautifully. Maurice informed us the choir are the reigning district champions in Chipata. It showed. And yes, there is video footage of both performances.

A couple more items of note, one in relation to the picture below. We have noticed this week that in Zambia, holding hands is not necessarily a romantic gesture. In fact, we’ve seen lots of girls holding hands and walking together, as well as lots of boys. And there has been something so strikingly beautiful about it. A pair of friends expressing their platonic affection for each other, unburdened by immature labels or teasing. We have remarked to each other about the obvious cultural difference, and are always left feeling moved by these displays of friendship.

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A truly unique and beautiful thing to witness this week. Unfiltered friendship.

Lastly, it was incredibly difficult to leave the school today. Physically and emotionally. Physically, because the students could hardly stop asking to have their picture or video taken (or to borrow our cameras to go off an have their own photo shoots). ‘Sorry, camera’s out of batteries!’ ‘My memory card is full!’ ‘No, no, we have to leave for the night!’ And emotionally, because we are so stinking attached to this community now. I’m wiping away tears at this very moment while typing. We only have one day left visiting the school, and over the past few days both our relationships with students and teachers have grown exponentially. We have been met with such love and acceptance this week, and have seen the joys and needs of this community up close. Now getting up to get a tissue. And we’re not ready to leave. Not even close. But we realize this is really only the beginning. And these tears, and inevitably the ones we will shed when we say our goodbyes to students tomorrow, are also for the gratefulness we feel to be a part of such an amazing organization and partnership.  We can’t wait to share stories and pictures with all of you, and not only dream about how where Dwankhozi Hope goes from here, but be instrumental in taking it there.

Of course, a sunset to finish this evening. It was particularly stunning as it dipped behind the tall grass. Goodnight from Zambia.

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Comments

  1. Maria Russo says

    Love the pictures and information. I’m looking forward to going to Zambia with my dad. I also can’t wait to meet my pen pal in Zambia. Zcomo gambili!

  2. Tears up here in Canada, reading this! Thank you, everybody!

  3. So very beautiful & exciting! Thank you for taking the time to share.

  4. Oh those sunsets!!

  5. So inspiring! Looking forward to hearing more stories upon your return.

  6. I am thoroughly enjoying the photos and blog posts, trying to soak in as much as I can of the people and place. What a great work is going on and I feel privileged to have a connection.

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