The morning air is crisp here in Portland, Oregon. I just arrived back from my summer work travel. I was on the road 14 weeks and it feels good to be home. As I arise to crisp dark mornings, mild sunny days, and star filled nights I am reminded of my time in Tanzania—minus the sunrise rooster crowing and banana plants in the garden!!
Just this week I put on my favorite Tanzanian skirt and began teaching a service-learning course at Portland State University called “African Children in Portland.” Its focus on supporting English Language Learners and 1st generation immigrant children in the school system will keep alive my time with all of you. It will tie my summer experience into life “back home.” This bridging of my summer and fall didn’t happen overnight—I’ve been building it for years! It’s been worth the effort! As I write to you, I’m curious about what you might be doing to bridge your GLA Tanzania experience to your local life.
Together the class and I will create a space where they will be of service and explore complex social issues all while trying to get to know themselves better. They’ll ask the same big questions our Tanzania team asked you—who are, who do you want to be, what are your hopes and dreams for the world, what’s your part in making that happen? And just like you, they won’t have all the answers to all the questions because it isn’t a one time graded quiz—it is an ongoing conversation. What a relief!
As with so many of you, my University students will mention feeling uncertain about where to begin to make change happen. Some will wonder if now is the time. Some will argue they don’t have enough time, talent, or energy. Still others will throw caution to the wind and jump in with both feet. Then throughout the term all of them will reflect and together they will recognize that change is happening already and they simply need to commit to being a part of it. Passion, excitement, and joy will be accompanied with doubt, fear, and boredom. Together the class will find inspiration to create meaningful long term relationships and commitments to serve the common good. I’ll tell stories about you to inspire them. I’ll invite them to be brave, passionate, inspiring people in ordinary ways AND I’ll be thinking of all of you as I do it. I’ll be remembering hard work, belly laughs, tears, and hugs. I’ll be remembering hikes, games, new ideas, story telling and everyday efforts. I’ll let them know that others have already accepted the call to “Be the Change.” All the while I’ll be wondering—what have those GLA TZ 2014 teens been up to? What little and big things have they been doing to stay connected and inspired as they daily create the world they want to live in and pass onto the next generation?! And I’ll be hoping to hear from you so my curiosity will be satisfied, my own sense of connection will be strengthened, and the relationships we began will continue to grow.
That’s all for now—it was a privilege this summer to be a small part of your epic life journey. If you find yourself in Portland one of these days the coffee is on me!
-Jenna Padbury, Director
Don’t just relive your summer abroad. Experience GLA in a whole new way next summer, in a country you’ve never been to before. Then check out Jenna’s favorite memories below, and mentor Paulina’s letter to her students from this summer.
Jenna’s Favorite Memories:
- Epic games of team charades and Body Body!
- Quiet moments on the third floor balcony
- Waking up at Maasai weekend and seeing everybody sleeping outside
- Cheering wildly at the pick-up soccer games with cows and goats and children wandering through the playing field
- Hearing the question during every session, “Why do we talk about girls and women’s issues so much?” And recognizing that wasn’t the teams original intention but a sign that we were welcoming the local community’s most pressing social and political agendas into our programming.
- The awe filled and breathtaking experience of winding down into the Ngorongoro Caldera through the morning fog.
- Squeals of delight at the first animal sighting followed by moments of silent appreciation on each safari
- Dressing hands with blisters on them from shoveling dirt to plant trees—recognizing in that sacred moment that the true meaning of service is planting a tree you don’t plan to eat from or sit under
- Hearing your loud and amazing voices singing everywhere and all the time (I’m looking at you, Monica!)
- Walking with you guys to service and seeing all of your students hold your hands and play with you
- Watching you guys tutor the students!
- Peanut butter sandwiches. All the time. You guys did a number on those jars! Ha!
- The Poop Chart. No need to go into detail
- Mentor Groups: I’m so sorry about the candles!