When I was in Senegal, all I could think was, "I want to bring students back here. I need to bring students back here. How can I get students to see this?" When I got home, some former students connected me with Urban Youth for Africa in Kalamazoo. The group already had a connection to Freetown in Sierra Leone, but I thought maybe we could work together to add another location and plan a trip for Summer 2012 to Senegal. If I have learned something in my years in the public school system, it is that you are better off and stronger building a project with a team instead of by yourself. There is less burn out, more motivation, and better results.
With school and other business, the idea faded into the background for a little while. Over Christmas break we started talking seriously about planning a trip for this summer and adding Senegal as another place youth could travel to for Urban Youth.
Now applications for kids are out and we are making plans to leave this July. Everything has fit together so well... I can only hope that this continues. My only regret is that I am not fluent in French or Wolof. I could really kick myself for not making the time to learn a new language. I feel horrible that Amadou at Africulturban in Pikine has to adhere to me and my language difficulties. It would be easier to work on the budget and itinerary if I was fluent! Oh well. I've got the Berlitz French book and online language programs at my disposal. I'm going to keep trying. I will Skype with him in French in the next 2 months!
All I can hope for now is that I do a good enough job helping to organize the trip. Everyone I've met in all of the organizations have been so awesome. It's a good feeling to find people with the same passion for students, travel, music, and social justice that I have. It's also an overwhelmingly good feeling to work together with people who share a vision instead of trying to do something on my own.
This is true education because it is based in the reality of every day life, not confined within the four walls of a classroom. It is the practice of freedom: Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world." — Paulo Freire
I'm excited. Can't you tell?