Hello from Kigali!
After a busy week in Kayanga, I am now in Rwanda waiting to board my plane back to America this afternoon. Part of me wishes nothing more than to be back in Kayanga with the Ota family and Amizade’s volunteers, but the larger part of me knows that Ota needs to grow on its own without me there as a crutch. I am once again fighting conflicting emotions as I take enormous pride in the fact that Ota’s local workers are running the program without me there on the ground, but I also feel a sense of loss that my own role in Ota’s daily functioning grows smaller and smaller each program. However, the sense of pride prevails as our goal has been to make Ota a locally run organization since its inception.
But enough of my musings, what have Amizade’s volunteers been up to this past week? They have been involved in an exciting service-learning program designed to help them learn more about development issues in Tanzania. This has included volunteering with a coffee cooperative, visiting a widow’s support group, and helping The Ota Initiative prepare for its fourth program to begin later this June. Along with helping the students adapt to life in Kayanga and engage in various service projects, I spent the last week introducing them to The Ota Initiative and the group leaders training seminar that they will be helping to run next week.
The Ota Initiative’s local staff are more than able to run the program without my presence, but they are still developing a deeper understanding of the creative teaching methods that Ota uses. We have asked Amizade’s volunteers to help with this by infusing new games, experiments, and art activities into our program’s schedule, which they will then teach to our leaders during the training seminar. The volunteers are also planning a Story Writing Workshop that they will run during the seminar to help the volunteers write even better stories. Finally, the volunteers are using their native grasp of English to help strengthen the week of English instruction that Ota will include in this upcoming program.
From the beginning, Ota has had the goal of hosting American volunteers from Amizade to work with its local leaders in developing the program. This would allow me to eventually take on more of an oversight role as our local staff takes on increasing control of the program and works with volunteers from America to infuse new games, projects, and creative teaching methods into our syllabi. However, there was a risk in this – Would the American volunteers be able to quickly grasp Ota’s goals and methods? Would they be able to produce the items and play the role we asked of them? Would Ota’s local staff recognize the volunteers as an important source of new knowledge?
We cannot know the answer to these questions for sure just yet, but my initial impression is a resounding “Yes!” In just the one week I was in Kayanga, I was very impressed with the new ideas I saw these volunteers bring to Ota in their initial planning sessions. They are developing songs, skits, and games that when combined with the local knowledge of our Tanzanian group leaders, will lead to a richer, more effective program for our students. The passion with which these volunteers have embraced Kayanga and its community has impressed me more than I thought it would. Adding volunteers to Ota’s functioning is just another experiment in the grand experiment that has been this entire program, and I am excited to see the results, and share them with you all, in another month.
For now, thank you again for your support, and I hope you are as excited as I am to follow this exciting new step in Ota’s development.
The Ota Initiative