learning to see beyond expectations, a photo reflection by Kirstie Jeffreys

This picture was during my first LTP experience in Tanzania. We went into Swift School to hold a teacher workshop. I was paired with Nate and given the topic of math which I was uneasy about as it were. I remembered back to my first day in the Literacy Through Photography class in Durham North Carolina and how I proclaimed to Katie Hyde that, “I think LTP works with almost ANY subject, of course except math.” As I progressed through the class I found that boy was I wrong. After reviewing countless projects and visual aids that oriented photography into a math curricula I was convinced. Not only were the kids learning math, they were involved in a fun interactive way with a subject I tended to avoid. Perhaps if I had such an experience early on I would’ve looked at mathematics in a different light.

We were assigned the topic of angles. After discussing different types of angles found in nature and way to display these visually we set off to work. We snapped photos of obvious images: corners, doors, windows, a protractor, etc. I found these to be rather bland and unengaging. Then as we were walking back to the class room we saw this little girl swinging on a swing set but not in an organic way that one would imagine. The children weren’t using the seats that were wrapped around the top of the set. I asked why no one was using the set the right way to which Mohammed responded, “The swing set was constructed wrong and is unsafe for them to use.” This made me incredibly sad yet also helped me realize something that pervades their culture in many forms. Just because something is broken does not mean it cannot be enjoyed. In Africa they make the very most out of every resource available to them regardless of circumstance. We constantly see locals in every type of shirt from the clothing drives including Old Navy, Greek Life shirts, various college names. The value placed on use far surpasses that of a label or name brand. Swift did not remove the swing set nor deem it defective, the children just found another way to enjoy the toy and made lemonade out of lemons. In the words of Dave Matthews, Africa “made the best of what’s around.”

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