Possibly my favorite week of the HOPAC school year is the annual Service Emphasis Week (SEW). In the past, teams of secondary students have traveled across Tanzania to serve alongside existing NGO’s and missionary organizations. This year, two things changed: the primary students got involved with SEW, and the projects were centralized in Dar es Salaam and the immediately surrounding area in order to best utilize students’ time serving, rather than in long hours traveling cross-country.
I was placed with a team of eleventh and twelfth grade students with the goal of facilitating a “summer camp” for students at the nearby DAIL Hope School. DAIL is a Korean NGO working in a low-income area on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, and the Hope School hosts a single class of about thirty students each year from ages 9-13 who cannot otherwise afford to have a good education.
On Monday morning, our group spent about two hours planning and preparing for the week before heading to DAIL for the first time. Two of the twelfth grade students had been volunteering at DAIL once or twice a week throughout the school year and they took the lead for our group, suggesting a schedule and activities, as well as giving many helpful insights into the environment at the Hope School.
The week flew by! Each day, we played games, facilitated crafts, hosted competitions, and danced with the kids at the Hope School. One day was themed after a birthday party, including cake, party favors, soda, and birthday hats to celebrate each of the kids, and another day was a sports day, complete with tug-of-war, football, and foot races. At the end of the week, when I and the HOPAC students left, the Hope School students stood outside their gate waving goodbye, and, according to the DAIL Director, were crying after we left. For many of them, this week was the first time that older students, especially those from a privileged international school, had deliberately spent time with them, showed them that they were valuable, and loved them selflessly.
For me, this week, and the weekly service learning classes/projects that HOPAC students are involved in, defines much of what HOPAC is. I love SEW week!!!