Students from School District 83 took a trip to Tanzania over spring break as part of their international volunteering efforts, helping with work in a small village and learning about the culture.

Shuswap students get hands dirty building school in Tanzania

Experience gives insight into what Canadians often take for granted

In the village of Odonyo-Sambu in Tanzania, home to just over 3,000 people of the Maasai culture, sits a school which was built with a little help from the Shuswap.

The School District #83 Me to We committee contributed funds in the past to build the school and, over spring break, members of the committee joined other students from B.C. on a trip to the village to help add a new classroom to the school.

READ MORE: Shuswap student committee speaks to the benefits of volunteerism

Not only was the trip a great chance to give back to a community that needs a hand, some of the students who participated came home with a renewed sense of what they take for granted.

“When I came home, everything seemed so different. The one little girl I saw, the last time I saw her she was carrying water on her head while waving at me and saying she would miss me,” says Hannah Cosman. “That made me reflect that my biggest problem before I left was if I wanted cubed or crushed ice in my water that I poured from the fridge, while this was her third time walking to get water that day. That kind of made me very upset.”

READ MORE: Former Shuswap teacher remembered for staying true to beliefs

“It was a really good trip, and a really good experience. There were some things that really surprised me,” says Rowan Trow. “Like when we walked to get water, we would have to keep switching back and forth while the villagers each carried one three kilometres every single day without complaining.”

Doing some hands-on volunteering in the village also allowed these students to see first hand the impact they could have on the lives of others if they are willing to put in the effort.

“It kind of gives people an insight into how others live. If you don’t see it, sometimes you can’t understand how to make a difference,” says Keeya Corbett. “Being there was really insightful, because even though you don’t always think you can help, we saw how how easy it is to actually help someone who has nothing.”

READ MORE: Talent show benefits African orphanage

For student Jordan Fischer, the most memorable aspect of the Maasai culture was not what they lacked, but their appreciation of what they had.

“They were very happy with what they had, even though they didn’t have much, which is different than how it is here,” he says.

Aside from helping to add on to the school, which involved laying a foundation and raising walls, some of the students also helped to repair homes in the village. In the Maasai culture, homes are constructed out of a mixture of soil, water and cow dung that dries into a type of clay. Any repairs are done by smearing a new layer of the mixture across the surface, and the students said it was interesting seeing how homes are built so differently than they were used to.

READ MORE: Shuswap student committee recognized for community involvement



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Students from the Shuswap carry jugs of water along a trail back to the village, learning how it feels to carry such an essential resource on their backs every day. (Wendy Woodhurst photo)

Shuswap students visit a school in Tanzania during their trip, where they helped build the foundation and walls of a new classroom. (Wendy Woodhurst photo)

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