teaching, learning and living around the world
When I’m all fired up about something, it’s pretty hard to beat having the opportunity to share my ideas and excitement with a room full of my family, friends, former girl scout leaders, teachers, soccer coaches…
Set up began around eight o’clock that morning. By midday the once empty store front contained six big fold out tables topped with bright green Congolese fabric, twenty framed 8×10 photographs, maps and books and lights and wine and cheese. (Thanks to Colleen Clark, Rachel Mallory and my family for helping me set up!)
At 7 pm it felt like all of Alexandria began wandering in. Friends from Commonwealth Baptist Church, friends I first met at George Washington Middle School, friends I first met playing rugby at the University of Virginia, friends who I used to consider my parents’ friends who I now consider my own. City Mayor Bill Euille, Former T.C. Williams High School Principal John Porter, representatives from Friends of the Congo and the Alexandria Times… the list could go on and on, and the energy and encouragement I felt throughout the evening seemed to go on and on. Having so much support is such a tremendous boost.
I did my best to sum up my project plan in a ten minute presentation. I have to admit that the presentation did not come easily, and I spent almost every waking moment of my three week winter holiday creating, rearranging, deleting, and recreating the slides that accompanied my talk. I am lucky to have so many friends and family that were willing to watch something like that with both a supportive and critical eye. After having taught and learned so much from living in Congo for three years already, I had a lot to say. It was hard to resist the temptation of telling every detail and every little side story that led me to where I am today. After a lot of hard work and editing, I felt great about the finished product. I presented who I am, what I believe, my experience thus far and my plan for Goma- which is to take a stab at connecting international and local teachers. All in eleven minutes flat! Afterwards, there were two follow up comments that left me pretty close to teary eyed. I really couldn’t believe it. I had worked so hard on that presentation and then these two comments were the icing on the cake, the whipped cream and cherry on top!
Kabahita, who coincidentally was my Step-Mom’s peace corp trainer in Eastern Congo thirty years ago, was from the region and is currently a teacher in Northern Virginia. He testified that there is a great need for education projects like this. He emphasized the importance of the concept of teachers SHARING ideas, and that this is what will make the impact of my project far reaching and long lasting. It is about empowering minds, and not about bringing material goods.
Witney Schneidman, who has been working in Africa for over forty years, “bared witness” to the fact that Africa is a continent of opportunity. To that I say, Amen! He also remarked that often it is small initiatives like this one that end up contributing so much. I so deeply appreciate both of their comments, which undoubtably helped increase my street cred! I am so very lucky to know so many good, knowledgeable, experienced and supportive people.
I couldn’t have dreamed up a better way to celebrate the beginning of what is sure to be a challenging, difficult, frustrating and hopefully effective, successful and sustainable project. I love you Alexandria! I appreciate your collective wisdom, encouragement and generosity. Thank you for everything.
The donations and pledges from this event totaled over $5,000. So as of now, I can afford to live in Goma for 2.5 months.