Jessieca Vorbeck will be a senior at Central High School in Springfield, MO and hopes to pursue a career in pediatric oncology.
We traveled half way around the world and back in nine days. This incredible journey has yet to fully sink in for most of us. When we arrived back in Springfield at 6:30 Sunday evening, being greeted by our families and friends all I could think about was how I miss the family that I found at Mwaya secondary school.
Our bus arrived at Mwaya secondary school around 10:00am Tanzania time and we were greeted by all of the students. Our hellos began with shaking hands as we walked off the bus but as I walked over to greet the girls they surrounded me, and began to hug me with tears rolling down their cheeks. The welcome that I received from each individual was unlike anything I had ever experienced. That feeling of acceptance and appreciation continued to grow throughout the week.
These students are currently surviving on one meal a day which generally comes late in the afternoon. For them, that means they must sit through a full day of school trying to learn about science, math, literature, and much more on an empty stomach. Their desire to learn supersedes ours in a way you cannot imagine, the students first question to me was “What do you study?” which was then followed by the question:
“Can you teach me?”
With their desire to learn in the right place, Chocolate University’s goal was to make their dreams achievable. In order to do this we came with three goals, a sustainable lunch program, computers, and a new teaching plan. My group was focused on the sustainable lunch program, which was a collaboration of the PTA at Mwaya, the students of Mwaya and Chocolate University. In order to create a sustainable lunch program, Askinosie Chocolate worked with the PTA at Mwaya to sell one ton of rice to fund one year’s feeding program. The parents had no words to express their gratitude for helping their students achieve a better life, and these students didn’t complain a single time about helping us stamp the bags, measure the rice, fill the bags, seal the bags, and finally prepare the product for sale. They were merely enthusiastic to help. We taught them how to stamp the bags, and they taught us how to use a candle to burn the bag in order to seal it. Though we all laughed at each other a few times this was an incredible experience, through language barriers and cultural differences we learned to work together in order to achieve our goal, bringing lunch to Mwaya.
By Thursday afternoon we had finished 1,045 bags of rice for their feeding program. This was an incredible accomplishment. Through this project I developed many friends which all taught me different lessons. As a whole my friends taught me about acceptance and beauty. I have never entered such a different community and been welcomed with such open arms. Everyone greeted us; there was so much happiness in the air, everyone was smiling and everyone was helping one another. It was unlike anything I have ever seen before. However, there were two friends that made an incredible difference in my experience and in my life. These two girls had an impact on me unlike anything I could have imagined. In a five day period they had taken me in as their sister, they showed me their homes, and told me about their lives and invited me into their families. When our final day came they didn’t understand why I had to leave them. They told me that I could stay and that I would be happier there with them. It was very difficult for me to leave them because over those five days I had grown just as attached to them as they had to me. I loved them and cared for them as if they were my sisters, as they did me. This incredible feeling, inspired by two young girls changed me for the better. It not only showed me love and understanding unlike any I had seen before but it also taught me about what an incredible impact I can make on someone’s life and for me that made all the difference.
The realization that I can make a difference and that I can change things even if it is for one person was incredible. Regardless of the difficulties, knowing that because of our journey two young girls felt appreciation and empowerment made all the difference in my life and has only inspired me to do more.