My name is Jerry and I am writing this as I end my homestay at Stahabu. Thank you to the whole village for welcoming us with such great hospitality. Here in Stahabu life is much different from the daily and expected life in America. People here live simpler lives being more connected to the environment and with each other. My host dad tells me “moja familia” which means one family in Swahili and it is true, everyone is one family in this village. Everyone treats each other with love not just those of blood. That’s the most important thing I have learned with my time here. Family is what matters most and to show appreciation for family is the true value. Everyone here lives with what they have and don’t fight for what they don’t have. I will never forget my host parents and little six year old sister Fatuma. Other little things I wont forget are bucket showers and learning to eat with my hands. During the closing ceremony one of the special guests said something that really stuck with me, “Thank you for coming here to Stahabu and one day we hope to come to your home, America, because as human beings we can not give up.” The sense of community, family and spirit here is something indescribable and unforgettable. Thank you for everything and I say a small goodbye with a bigger hello.
An experimenter, Luke, reading to local kids from Stahabu
So far the most poignant part of this trip were the home stays for me. During these seven days I was immersed into a new and highly unfamiliar world, wildly different from my home back in the US. I had to get accustomed to going to the bathroom outside which I had never done before, but more significantly I was thrown into a home unfamiliar to me and I was forced to be build relationships, even though I spoke very little Swahili and they spoke very little English.
This was a very powerful experience for me, and posed a powerful question.
How do you communicate with people who don’t speak your language? How do you interact with them? One of the ways that I learned to communicate with them was to act out something physically with my body, to get my point across or maybe put a smile on their faces by dancing, which by the way I am horrible at.
Looking back on the homestays I feel as if they made a lasting impact onto me. I should not take what I have back in America for granted but instead cherish what I have and know that there is always someone else around the world who has less, and I have to do everything I can as a citizen of this world to help people who are less fortunate than I.
“I cried because I had no shoes. Then I met a man with who had no feet.”
During the time in the Stahabu Village, we were given a day to spend with our families. Every family was different so each Experimenter’s day varied on their family day. Most students ended up doing laundry, cooking, and helped clean the homestays! Many celebrated by drinking coconuts and eating fresh fruits. Some students expressed that they danced with their families and tried to learn how to balance a bucket of water on their heads like their homestay mothers. Through the challenging moments, many realized one of the best and most memorable days was family day.
Playing duck duck goose with the nursery kids
Our eight day stay at the Stahabu Village was by far the most pivotal moment of the entire trip. The good times were enjoyable but the challenging moments made my stay furthermore meaningful and unforgettable. Walking into the village on the first day was nerve wrecking. I was excited to meet my host family but I was also nervous about whether or not they would like me and vise versa. After meeting them, I had nothing to worry about. They were so welcoming and I felt right at home. If there’s one thing I learned while being in the Stahabu Village, it’s to embrace the moments — every moment! The good moments, the bad, the awkward, the angry, the passionate, the silent, the sad, the uncomfortable — all of them. Truly living in those moments without trying to anxiously change it makes the experience worthwhile. It’s okay to revisit feelings of homesickness or uncomfortableness. Just as long as you’re only visiting it and not creating a permanent living space in it (if you know what I mean). All in all, I really enjoyed my stay at the Village. If time allows, I would definitely revisit my host family in the future.
Before our Islamic education lesson in the local madrasa
A poem written by student Mac (McKinley) —
Here in the heart of the village I stand before you
As someone new
Someone with greater courage, love, and an understanding of the meaning of family
I learned here that the world is so big yet so small
And that I had so much to learn from all of you
Through a different language and different way of life
I was able to feel more myself that I ever did in America
It took a village
And welcoming people
To teach me the meaning of family
I learned that in Stahabu family means more than just blood
Family means love
A deeper connection built between those we trust
A family of aunties and uncles
Grandmothers and grandfathers
Friends and neighbors
And I, some girl from America, was embraced by this joyous family
Where we worked together, ate together, laughed together
And to my family I will be leaving tomorrow
I thank you
For helping me grow as a person and see the world through new eyes
Because if I learned anything it’s that it takes a village
Several experimenters hard at work helping build the new shule (school)
Experimenters plastering the walls of the school