I Left My Heart in Tanzania

기사승인 2020.09.25  17:09:12   조회수 564


These days COVID-19 has made people impossible to even dream of traveling abroad. Before the pandemic, last winter, I had an opportunity to visit Tanzania for a vision trip with a group of students from Cornerstone Collegiate Academy (CCA). The purpose of the vision trip was to give some help to the missionaries in Tanzania and deliver relief supplies. Honestly speaking, it was hard for me to decide to go abroad, especially to Africa. The main reason why I hesitated going to Tanzania was because of the long distance. The flight takes nearly 20 hours from Korea to Tanzania. After careful consideration, I said yes, which became the best choice that I ever made in my life. I learned three important lessons through this invaluable experience.

The first is sacrifice. The students from CCA who volunteered to go to Tanzania sacrificed many things while living together. Since we had to live as a community, we had to give up our old habits to ensure everything went smoothly. Getting up early in the morning is very difficult for someone who usually sleeps a lot. We also all had breakfast at the same time and prepared to be on schedule. However, the worst conflict came from a sleeping place. There were four large beds in the base camp, but they were too small for four boys. So, we had to decide who would sleep on the floor. At that moment, one of my friends volunteered and said, "I like sleeping on the floor, so I will." I looked at him and regretted myself. Everyone wants to sleep in a comfortable bed but nobody was willing to share it because of their greed. However, when I saw my friend sleeping on the ground without hesitation, I realized that was a true sacrifice.

The second is enthusiasm. My colleagues and I were very enthusiastic during the trip. We helped missionaries in various ways, such as assembling furniture, plowing a field, and teaching local children. At first, I was worried if I could teach them well because I had to teach math, which I hated the most.

[Teaching local children in Tanzania. Photo Credit: Dong Woo Lee] 
[Teaching local children in Tanzania. Photo Credit: Dong Woo Lee]

My partner and I came up with an idea of using daily items to effectively teach children how often we can find mathematics in our daily lives. We drew a circle on the paper, gave them a piece of string with a size of the circumference, and asked how many times the radius would fit in the string. We also taught three-dimensional objects by showing them how to make a cube with a piece of paper. Unlike our expectations, the children did not fully concentrate on our class. Since they were young, some of them kept walking around the classroom while others fell asleep. Only a few students took lessons with shining eyes. Through this experience, I felt the same as the teachers in my school. Looking at Tanzanian students, I reflected on my classroom attitudes. I felt sorry for my teachers for not actively engaging in class. I was also worried if I could teach well because math was even a challenging subject for me.  However, I learned a big lesson that I can achieve my goal with enthusiasm regardless of the difficulty.

[Helping local neighbors in Tanzania. Photo Credit: Dong Woo Lee] 
[Carrying some useless rocks, Photo Credit: Dong Woo Lee]

Finally, I learned about compassion and how to sympathize with others. In Tanzania, I faced many situations that I could not experience in Korea; some students walked for three hours every day to go to school. They could not eat three meals a day and a significantly lower number of schools in suburban areas. Although I saw UNICEF advertisements several times, I always ignored them and had no motivation to help them. However, a short retreat to Tanzania was enough to change my perspective. It was an opportunity to reflect my ignorant self. 

I am very grateful for my trip to Tanzania and experiencing various events that I would never have done in Korea. In the future, I will try to live with sacrifice, enthusiasm, and compassion based on what I learned on the other side of the planet.

Dong Woo Lee
10th grade
The Learning Community International School

Dong Woo Lee

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