Thirteen high school students have been preparing all week for their upcoming trip to remote Tanzania tomorrow. They have learned about the chocolate industry, the Tanzanian culture and how to work together as a team. I had the privilege of joining the group of aspiring adventurers on their last sessions in the States. I walked in on their Swahili language practice and crash course in cultural behavior norms. Donita Cox, teacher at Central High School, led the class in an impromptu quiz.
“Naomba Chai,” she said.
“I want tea!” declared an eager student.
Their wide eyes and enthusiasm brought me joy and reminded me about my first time traveling to El Salvador when I was 16. It was truly a defining moment for me, and this trip will surely be a defining moment for them as well.
As the session continued, I learned all the hard work the students had put in that week since checking in to Drury University on Saturday. On Sunday, they spent all day in the chocolate factory doing everything from making chocolate to tasting chocolate. Shawn taught them all the ins and outs of how he runs his business and how the relationship with the Tanzania farm was developed. Chocolate education was paired with an emphasis on social entrepreneurship, and the idea that this model could be applied to anything the students are passionate about.
On Monday, the group explored the wilderness of the Ozarks by participating in a ropes course to build teamwork and communication skills. Here, the students learned more about each other and how to work through issues before facing any possible crisis overseas. The students rose to the challenge. The group also toured the Convoy of Hope headquarters in Springfield and had lunch with the Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
This activity-packed week led by Dr. John Taylor acted as a chocolate and Tanzania culture bootcamp if you will for the students. By Tuesday (when I met them), the students were beaming with enthusiasm for the upcoming adventure. That day Shawn also brought them their itinerary for Tanzania, which includes attending classes at the Mwaya Secondary School with the local students, setting up a laptop system for the students, stamping and filling rice bags to help fund a future nutritional food program there and participating in the Empowered Girls Club. They also received the trip t-shirts with the group’s motto: Kujengana, which means to build each other up in Swahili.
The adventure bootcamp ended on Wednesday with an inspiring pep talk from the President of Drury University, Todd Parnell. He asked each of the students what they wanted to be when they grew up, and afterwards, he said that he hopes to ask them the same question when they return. He told them to stay awake because this trip could change them forever.
I hope I get a chance to see those eager spirits again, too. I know my first trip abroad changed my life forever. It gave me a new passion to always be a part of making a global impact and to understand cultures outside my own. I am so thrilled that six years later I do get to make a global impact daily with my job at Askinosie Chocolate. I hope these kids with have their fire lit just like mine was when I was their age.
This guest post is from Bethany Parry who was recently hired as the Person in Charge of Getting the Word Out at Askinosie Chocolate. She graduated in May from Missouri State University with a double degree in Public Relations and Spanish.