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

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