Africa: not a Serengeti wonderland of lions and elephants, but a barren landscape of high grass and termite hills. Sawdust careened into my face, guided by petulant gusts of filthy air. Women walked down the dirt road, balancing buckets of water on their heads, as children ran behind in broken sandals and torn shirts. Goats and cattle clogged the streets with their moos and baas.
Days before, I’d stepped off a plane in
â–º Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Before I left, friends questioned why I was traveling to
Despite the dire state of their village, the children found hope in their newly constructed school. Kindergartners were not only responsible for their education and learning English, they also took care of siblings and household duties. These children, dressed in hand-me-down Nike shirts from long-gone UNICEF workers, represented the first generation of blacks in
After many hours of arduous labor for the volunteer group Volunteer Africa 32 South, the playground was completed and the soccer equipment was donated. The school principal explained the difference the playground would make for her students. Without it, teachers encouraged students to play, but they only hid in the shadow of the concrete building. Now, students could build social skills and become leaders in a community of failing parents. The jerseys would be utilized for more than sports. Philanthropists would use the venue of soccer to address greater issues; they planned to create AIDS and clean-water clinics.
I found it odd to think that a playground and a few jerseys could make such a difference. Then, I realized the flaw in my pre-conceived view of
Before the trip, I planned to enter the Peace Corps after college to “change the world” and solve problems with a single motion. While my desire to join the Peace Corps remains unchanged, my goals are different. I now know that if I can influence just a few people in one small village, the seeds of change will be planted and it will truly become “Ayoba Time.”
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