Friday, May 20, 2011

a little school in africa


far away in africa, in a country once torn by war, there is a little school called matsopane. the country is mozambique, and the school is located in a small town called vilanculos, bordering the indian ocean. 


many years ago, some bloggers got together to support this little school, whose building was blown away in a cylone. it had sand for floors, a thatched roof and no benches for the students to sit on. but it had spirit.





in the past year, through the world of blogging, i have 'met' this wonderful group of women who are supporting this school: geli, val, janet and lori.  these fellow bloggers, who live all over the world, help matsopane through a variety of ways: by sending supplies, by creating a blog to raise awareness about the school, and communicating with the school teacher, lucas, to see how they can help in other ways. i decided to join in.


at first, i thought i'd try to send school supplies, which were badly needed. geli, who lives in germany, has done this on many occasions. this foto below shows how excited the kids are to receive one of her packages.  

but when i checked at the post office, the cost of shipping a parcel full of notebooks, books and other supplies was way more than the supplies themselves.


so val and janet set up an account so people who want to help can wire money directly to a fund. val is able to travel to mozambique several times a year; when she visits, the school erupts in excitement and the children come running to open the parcels


it was wonderful to be able to send some money to help, but i also hoped to do something more personal. val told me that the kids love getting the postcards that geli and others send, showing different cities around the world. if figured if the kids loved getting postcards, they would love getting actual drawings from school children halfway across the world.


so i got in touch with my childrens' former grade school and most beloved teacher, donna, to see if she could help.... 


(donna and rick, her co-teacher, dressed up for halloween)



....and she said of course she could! 


donna teaches first grade, and they just happened to be studying africa. she asked if i could come in  and show the children fotos of the school and share a little about how blogging helped to bring people together to help.



the day i came to do the presentation, the kids were very excited, and fascinated to see the students at matsopane were all ages, from 3 - 13, unlike their first  grade class, where they all were the same age, 6 and 7 years old. 


i showed them many pictures i had collected from my blog friends -





fotos of the kids opening geli's packages, a picture lori sent of the old school building before it was destroyed by a cyclone, and pictures val sent of her many visits to the school.


the kids asked what kind of games the african students played, what they studied in school, and were amazed at the toys they made from cans and wire.



after the presentation the first graders showed me the tribal shields and masks from kenya and the masai they had made.



then donna gave them each paper and crayons and asked them to draw a picture of their families and write down a question they want to ask the matsopane students. 

here are some of the questions:
How do you make your toys?

What animals do you have?

Do you have a chimney?

What do you eat other than crickets?

donna read the questions back to the class

next, i realized i had to translate the english into portuguese, which is the main language of the region. i have a friend, tim, who lived in brazil for 2 years with the peace corps and i asked him to translate some of the sentences 

geli told me she has a friend she met through blogging, mina, who also speaks portuguese. she translated some more sentences for me

and also a letter i had written to lucas, the school's headmaster

explaining what was in the package and who was sending it.


i've always wanted to know how to say: "What do you eat other than crickets?" in Portuguese. Now I know: 


O que vocês comem além de grilos?


i sent off the package in the mail this week to val. she will visit matsopane again later this year and deliver the letters and pictures from the kids, along with some postcards from the midwest, showing the famous gateway arch and the missisissippi river. donna, being the best teacher, also included a map of the world and the u.s., showing the matsopane students we live on opposite sides of the globe.

maybe we can't always send money, or supplies. but i'm hoping that this little bit of love from these first graders and images from their lives sends a message of hope and caring across the ocean. kids are kids no matter where they live, and even a 6 or 7 year old can be enlightened about how life must be like for children who do not have a carpeted floor, access to computers, television, telephones, or sometimes, not even a roof over their heads. 


my deepest appreciation and thanks go to donna for opening up her classroom to me, to mina and tim for their help with the translation, and of course to val, janet, geli and lori for all the love and committment they have shown to this little school. when the package finally arrives, it's uncertain if they will answer back. but at least they know that someone out there in the world is trying to connect with them.


and as e.m. forster said,


only connect.


.......and if they do write back, it could be the beginning of a long and rich relationship between these two little schools. 


anyone who would like to help support Matsopane School please contact Janet at: ejdw@mweb.co.za 


to learn more about Matsopane please visit this wonderful little blog

27 comments:

  1. The photograph of the children who had fashioned toys out of cans and wires brought to mind an excellent book I read last year, 'The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.'

    Thank you for taking the time to put this incredible post together.

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  2. What a great project! And that connection with children across the continents will go a long way indeed. Thank you Amanda, for raising the issue, for reaching out and getting a small school like this in the eyes of the world.

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  3. Amanda,
    The first photo of the school and the kids made me say to my 17-year-old son, Jordan, "This is exactly why I want to go back to Africa and work with kids." I used to live in Nigeria, for the first six years of my life and now that I'm in my 50's and my kids are gone, I'd love to work directly with the kids in Africa. I speak fluent French, so I'd have to work with kids in a French speaking country. Thanks so much for rekindling my desire. I really hope to go somewhere and help withing the next 5-6 years. Are there other organizations that you know of than the Peace Corps, where you can perhaps go for 6 months, rather than 2 years straight?

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  4. Wonderful! What a powerful and beautiful post! Shine on!
    Victoria

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  5. We can not finance an whole educational system but we sure can help a school somewhere when we set out to do it. Wonderful initiative.
    For years now the kids of a secondary school in the Laurentian hills has adopted a school in Haiti.
    When the school was flatened in that awful earthquake they set up a fund to rebuild it, organized spaghetti supper with their community's businessmen. The rebuilding is now almost over and the school never interrupted it's activities.

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  6. wonderful...everybody seems to be benefiting from this great exchange.....gestures like yours can change the world!

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  7. Dear Amanda, I am so happy you joined in, with all your enthusiasm and power of connecting people, and your gift of writing!
    Val and I have been supporting this little school for close to ten years now, and I do not think that anything else has given me so much joy and pleasure. Receiving letters back from the children, one saying, I am 13 and can go to school now. I learned to read and write. Aren`t you proud of me? - it made me realize what you said, Amanda. Kids are kids everywhere. When given a chance, they will all try to do things that can make them and their families proud. All they need is a little support. And one of the main things, apart from school materials which their parents cannot afford, is surely the knowledge that they are not forgotten and left alone. When I see the smiling and happy faces of those kids when Val arrives with another package, my heart always melts. Love to you and Donna and all our blog pals (there were more, like Barbara and "e")! Geli

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  8. you just cinched the belt on the world and it became smaller. wonderful spirited you. those children - oh, those children. children are universally spirited, aren't they, we can't help but love them as our own.

    wonderful work, amanda.

    xo
    erin

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  9. I forgot to say, I LOVE that question in Portuguese, will learn it by heart! In German it is:
    Was esst Ihr noch außer Heuschrecken? (Crickets being "Hay-frights"!).
    Wonderful. A good beginning of a conversation, hahaha!

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  10. Oh Amanda, this was awesome, a brilliant post in every way. Angela is right your enthusiasm and attention to the matsopane school and children is a beautiful thing. Thank you for all you've done, I can't wait for Val and everyone else to see this.
    xxx

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  11. Amanda, your posts often seem to leave me on the verge of tears, but this one had me crying.

    Look at those faces! From both the children at Matsopane, and those from the U.S. class...how curious, bright, and beautiful!

    You think you're doing a wonderful service for the children of Matsopane (and you are), but I can see from the wondrous look on the faces of the U.S. children that you have given them a great gift, as well.

    The blog world is a marvel to me. Thank you so much for heeding the call from Forster so very well, and enabling us to do the same.

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  12. Making connections is really the key to appreciating and understanding people. What a truly wonderful thing for these children to reach out....and then opening the gateway for a response.

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  13. what erin said about cinching the belt of the world: yes, that's what you've done. this is goodworks in every way and you never know how one act and intention affects another.

    fantastic in every way, amanda. thank you very much.

    love
    kj

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  14. Amanda - thanks for this post and I'm so impressed with Donna and her school children!! BIG THANK YOU.
    I have already heard from one of your faithful blog friends offering support - WOW
    xx

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  15. dear Amanda - this is such a wonderful effort and I am sure the children of Matsopane will be fascinated by the letters from 'your' children! I hope this is the beginning of something magnificent for everyone
    xxx

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  16. suze - i have never heard of that book, but it sounds fascinating. i will look it up now that you have brought it to my attention.

    rosaria - this little school grabbed my heart, so it's been a pleasure to try to tell its story~

    sonia - wow - there is no doubt that you have so much to offer and any organization would be lucky to have you on board. i do know of an organization in senegal, run by a frenchman. shoot me an email and i will be happy to give you more info ~

    thanks so much victoria - so good to see you!! i've missed you!!

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  17. paul - what a wonderful story. it only gives me more hope that we can effect change from the bottom up. thanks for your kind comment♡

    susan - one can only hope - your kind words are so appreciated! xoxo

    mim - you are the best!! thanks from the bottom of my heart!!! xoxo♡♡

    geli - it is thanks to you, as you were one of the first people who brought matsopane to my attention. the kids in donna's classroom had so many questions about the packages you have sent the african children - they were amazed that a box of crayons or notebook could make a child as excited as that!! really opened their 7 year old eyes to a very different level of perception...... xx

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  18. geli - i meant to add that of course there were more people who have been involved in this wonderful project and i was fearful of leaving out their names --- thank you for mentioning also these wonderful souls who have helped -- and i also remember that tessa was a big part of this project for a long time as well ♡

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  19. erin - that's very kind of you but i am happy to just be a link in that belt that is cinching ever smaller and smaller......

    geli --- oh now i know how to say it in german too!!! i love it -- crickets are hay frights???

    lori - you are a huge part of this, girlfriend!! i'm trying to remember if you had a chance to visit mozambique on your african trip???

    maybe someday we can all meet there in person -- what a dream!!

    jo - the blogworld is an amazing thing. it has a life of its own, and sometimes.........it can be a wonderful surprise how it works to bring people together in ways we never could have predicted♡

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  20. kind thanks farmchick♡

    kj - you never do know how one act or intention might affect another as you say, but it's wonderful to learn that reaching out is always worth the risk ;-)

    janet - that is so incredibly heartwarming to know that this little blogpost might inspire someone to want to connect in that way♡

    and yes, donna and her kids are just amazing!!

    oh, me, too dear val!!! i'm so happy you are heading to moz very soon -- we will await news of your latest visit with great anticipation!!! sending love and hugs xoxo

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  21. What and uplifting post, Amanda. A simple gesture pursued thoughtfully and caringly can do so much on both ends. Looking forward to seeing the reaction to the drawings and how the relationship between the two classes blossoms.

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  22. What a beuatiful way of bridging places on Earth and bringing children of different worlds closer together. The internet is amazing when it is used to build these kind of friendships and to convey help to those who truly need it.
    I am sure it must feel so very rewarding to be part of something this grand an meaningful.
    I enjoyed seeing all the various images as well.;))
    xoxo

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  23. This was a beautiful post. Love is the most potent force on earth. :-)

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  24. That is wonderful. Blogging can open up so many doors and enriches us all in so many different ways.

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  25. lorenzo - i am looking forward, too, to see what happens. I was just notified that the package arrived, so will keep you posted...

    zuzana - the internet is an amazing place, in ways i had not predicted when i began blogging. i am so very grateful.....

    nancy - you are so right - love is the most potent force - any place, any time, anywhere♡

    loree - as i said to zuzana - i never anticipated connecting to so many wonderful people through blogging - the internet is often portrayed as a negative forbidding place, but it's heartening when you can experience the opposite~

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  26. Dear Amanda
    It´s been a joyful experience connecting with you and all the wonderful community. Thank you for letting me take part of it. And I am sorry for not writing before, I was a little bit busy with my new baby but day after day it´s getting easier to take care of him! Lots of love to you!

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Thank you for visiting♡