Journey to Africa

It was a long, incredible journey to Africa and we all returned inspired.  Michael was our photographer and took thousands of images which will be uploaded to a drive and shared once he finishes making his impact video.  Here are a few from my computer. =)

Day 1: Upon arrival, we enjoyed a hearty lunch on the Raft, the only floating restuarant in the Chobe region.  This was followed by a sunset boat cruise on the Chobe River between Botswana and Namibia where we saw hippos, elephants, kudu, and elan.

 

 

 

 

Day 2: Early Morning game drive where we saw some of the big 5. Chobe is amazing because the animals are free to roam between the 4 countries of Nambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, so its always exciting when you end up at the same place at the same time.

       

Next we made a visit to the Kasane Secondary School to see the kids that made the very first walk to school with us 4 years ago. They moved up to secondary school in January, so we wanted to pay them a visit.  The execs did a great job of speaking to the students and motivating them to succeed; and Allison read the book that the Elementary School Ambassadors wrote for them. Joona made a village boys dream come true when she presented him with a laptop her family donated.

         

We then stocked up on supplies and headed to Pandamatenga where we visited the bread lady, Ma Mishack before arriving at the Eco Lodge in time for dinner, sunset and a special Happy 18th Birthday for Ruben.

Day 3: We held our Environmental Awareness Event with the Wildtrack Safaris Eco Lodge.  The Ambassadors had been planning this event for months, coming up with activities for various age groups all the way from preschool to adult.  Everyone had a great time and the villagers were very grateful for the sausages and drinks served at the end. Andrea, Alex, and Greta took some time to speak with the women of the village, empowering them to improve their lives.

         

   

   

Day 4:  We woke early and made the long walk to school with the children through the bush.  In order to truly “Walk a Mile In Their Shoes” we did not eat breakfast or take water for the walk. After the walk, we met with the Tribal Chief Ma Rebecca to request permission to enter the village.  Emily started us with a prayer (as per tribal custom) then Ronan and Maria made the request, impressing us all by introducing themselves in Setswana. We then ate breakfast before heading to the village where we installed 100 mosquito nets in memory of Teacher Sharon Holoboff.  Making record time, we finished by lunchtime so the kids had a free afternoon for swimming, studying and playing games. After dinner, we baked cupcakes for the Bakers Without Borders Event.

  

Day 5: Today was about construction!  We put up the first building (reception/office) for the school in Pandamatenga and made almost 300 bricks for the new kitchen for the bread lady.  We took a break to bring the cupcakes we made to the school and deliver them to students in their classrooms.  With the help of the Pandamatenga community, we were able to treat the students and teachers to over 600 cupcakes.  We also met with the new Silent Dropout group.  These students are at risk of dropping out of school so Ambassadors were happy to reach out to them.  We finished the day with a farewell barbecue, tribal dancers, and stick bread.

           

          

Day 6:  Today we crossed the border into Zimbabwe.  We visited the Baobab School where students met Francis, the boy who needed hearing aids and his parents and spent time with the special needs students and the computer class.  Eileen, the late Mr. Gathered’s daughter and her mother came as well.  Ambassadors have paid for Eileen’s schooling since her father died and she took a bus 10 hours to join us at the school and have lunch with us.  Maria, who raised $1000 from her birthday for Eileen’s education was especially happy to meet her. We then stopped at the majestic Victoria Falls Hotel for a group photo and a quick tour of Larry Norton’s Gallery, before hiking Victoria Falls.  Dinner that night was at the Boma where students dined on WartHog and impressed everyone with their drumming skills.

        
   

Day 7:  Today we headed to Zambia where we toured the YCTC facilities before heading to the school in Kamatanda.  After a moving ceremony with distinguished guests including the tribal chief, head man, councilmen, students, and parents, we dedicated the new library which is in the final stages of construction.  The festivities included slam poetry, songs and speeches.  Zara, Allison, Emily, Jessica, and Maddie each sponsored a child to go to secondary school and when they presented the money, the mothers danced for us and hit their knees in thanks. We met Baby Francy for the first time and gave out the Dress a Girl Around the World dresses.  We had a late lunch at Olga’s Kitchen, part of YCTC, then headed to the African Market for shopping at Souvenirs.  Dinner was at Cafe Zambezi where we celebrated Jack’s 16th birthday.

          

 

 

Day 8:  We drove to the border after breakfast, then took speed boats across the river to Botswana.  After a visit to a local orphanage, we ate lunch, then headed to the airport for our long journey home.

 

 

February Update

As February comes to a close, the Ambassadors are busy finalizing plans for their Service Trip to Africa next month.   This trip is different from the discovery Week trips taking place at the same time, because the students in Ambassadors actively plan and prepare for the activities throughout the year in order to enhance the communities they serve.

As we put the final activities in place for the Alcohol Awareness and Wellness Campaign with Project Humanity, Mr. Schnell has been actively involved with the Ambassadors, giving input and suggestions for the fitness activities we are planning in the village.  Ms. Schaub has also been a great resource to us by ensuring that our activities provide valuable learning experiences for the community (as well as our Ambassadors).

Mr. Sexton continues to support the student learning process by allowing the Ambassadors to journey to Africa each year in order to serve others and see the culmination of their fundraising efforts.  It is a great feeling to know that you have helped others, inspired hope, and aided a community in need of development.  But all of the projects take on a new meaning when you actually meet the people you are helping and understand the struggles they face everyday. One of our scheduled activities, “Walk A Mile in their Shoes”  will allow the Ambassadors to take the 8km journey to school with the village children. Mr. Doyle has previously joined us on this walk and Mr. Zurfluh will accompany us this year.

We received some great news today from Zambia, the student builders have finished the walls on our new school block in Kamatanda and begun installing the roof.

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The Ambassadors finalized names for the new school block and classrooms today and
are designing a flag to hang in front of the school.

One of our AAS Alumni, Floriane Charles, has launched her new Ambassadors program at Concordia University and sent us their new logo. We are excited that the Ambassadors program  has expanded in passion and scope. This is part of their mission statement, “Concordia Ambassadors strives to make the world a  better place through sustainable global projects.  People around the world do not have the opportunities afforded to Concordia students, such as our great education, and thus it is our duty to provide them with these opportunities. This is where our values begin.  We will make sustainable changes in the world that will better the lives of hundreds or even thousands of people.”

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The ES StuCo continues to raise funds for teacher training for the enw school through their Friday Market sales and the Eco Club is fundraising for the Solar Pump needed for a community garden project in Pandamatenga. The girl scouts are making friendship bracelets along with Rachel Daskova who has started making bracelets as part of a CAS project.  We know the children in the villages will be thrilled to have them.

We still have plenty of copies of our “Zest for Zambia” International cookbook for sale in room 3105.  All proceeds go to support our work in Zambia.  This afternoon, Mr. Zurfluh will kick off his Director’s Challenge campaign, which was launched at our Global Evening in December.  Please see the link below for his post. As always, we thank the entire AAS Community for their support.

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Director’s Message to the AAS Community

AAS Ambassadors Global Project

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The students in the AAS Ambassadors researched areas in need throughout the world and voted to help build a school in the rural farming community of Pandamatenga, Botswana. Given the needs of the community, the Ambassadors felt they could help alleviate many of the problems faced there with the completion a school within the village.  These children currently walk 6-8 km to the nearest school through bush and dangerous terrain, where lions and hyenas rest. This school will provide them with a safe place to learn.

The AAS Ambassadors committed to raising funds to construct the first 2 classrooms for the school. After visiting Pandamatenga in March 2014, the Ambassadors reaffirmed their commitment to finishing this dream. Their new global project goal is to help the farming community raise the remaining funds needed to construct the remaining buildings required by Botswana law to make the school a legal entity.

To date the Ambassadors have contributed $31,000 to the project, with the local farmers contributing an additional $14,000 and Building Botswana adding an additional $5,000.  An additional $70,000 is needed to finish Phase 1. The Ambassadors hope to complete the first phase in early 2015 and will return to Pandamatenga in March for Discovery Week.

This school addresses a specific need within the community and will make school more accessible to the residents of the Newstance Ward who currently do not have a school of their own.  These children walk 6-8 km each way  to school in the neighboring ward of Guest House.

Meeting these children, it was clear that they love learning and want an education, even when their guardians feel it is unsafe for them to make the journey to school.  For many of these children, the only meal they get each day is the porridge provided by the school in the morning, so education feeds their intellectual, social, and primary needs.

This project will teach respect for self and others by offering black children and white children the opportunity to attend school together for the first time in Pandamatenga’s history. Students will be taught in English, one of the official languages of Botswana, which will help bridge the gap between the village children who speak Setswana and the farmers children who speak Afrikaans.

Our Discovery Week trip helped our own students to be globally aware citizens by introducing them to a drastically different culture and the devastation of poverty. 55% of the children in this village are orphans who have lost both of their parents to AIDS.  65% of the children are HIV positive themselves, so education is key to a healthy future for them. Most Ambassadors felt this was a life-changing experience and can’t wait to go back to continue their work.

This project has the backing of not only the farmers, but the tribal chief, village elders, town council, families, and the leader of parliament for the Chobe region.  Our project is sustainable as several companies in Botswana have committed to sponsoring children once the school is a legal entity and the farmers have committed to maintaining the buildings and grounds after we leave.

Please join us in giving the children of Pandamatenga a brighter future!

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