A Leap of Faith, a photo reflection by Betsy Mansfield


Working here in Tanzania has been an adventure, a beautiful, crazy whirlwind of an adventure. Working alongside the students and teachers has been one of the most rewarding and interesting experiences I have ever had. Pelle Shaibu, our coordinator and pretty much the president of LTP here in Tanzania, has a saying when we do teacher workshops, “We don’t know what you know and you don’t know what we know, but if we work together we can learn from each other.” It definitely has been a learning process, between navigating the school environment and the language barrier working with LTP here has many differences from our work back in Durham.


We started off our work in schools by spending a week with Class 6 at Meru Primary School. It being our second week our Swahili was, and still is, fairly limited, and while the students learned English, they struggled to understand some of our explanations. As a result, we spoke English and broken Swahili as we tried to communicate the goals of LTP. Our first two days were spent working on illustrating professions, which once we understood each other, turned out beautifully. One of my favorite pictures from the entire trip is the student’s illustration of ‘pilot.’ We had already finished discussing and making pictures of two occupations and had a little bit of extra time so I told the students we could try other professions. They suggested soldier and policeman, which we finished quite quickly. I then suggested pilot. My students lit up at this idea and one student turned to me and asked, “Ruka?” Before I could even blink the student had launched himself off the top of the steps near the classroom. Ruka in Kiswahili is jump, and the students were illustrating flying like a plane. They jumped without any reservations, as they jumped into LTP without reservations.


That’s what it has felt like while we work here, leaping into the situation. The students, the teachers and the Duke students are all taking a leap of faith, mutually relying on each other in order to learn, grow, and understand. Half of us came to Tanzania with no experience in LTP and all of us had no idea what to expect or what we would experience. It wasn’t scary per say, as we have an incredible support system here through Pelle, and amazing site coordinators, it was just the hesitation about the unknown. What we have encountered is indescribable, the teachers and students have been incredibly welcoming and have embraced our ideas and discussions. They are so open to sharing and asking questions and always so excited to work together with us. We have also learned so much about the history of Tanzania, the culture, the schools, and the hopes and dreams of the students we work with. It has been amazing to see the work that the students and teachers produce and how excited they are by the final projects. I know the next month will go by too quickly and soon we will have to return to the U.S., but I also know that this leap of faith was above and beyond worth it.


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