Observations from a Visit to SEGA
Board Member, Kendall Webb, Discusses Highlights from her Recent Trip to SEGA
Kendall Webb serves on the Nurturing Mind’s board and has been largely instrumental in the development of online charitable giving. She and her daughter recently visited SEGA and had an incredible, formative experience at the school. Below are a number of highlights and reports of their trip:
My daughter, Mikayla and I, just came back from an exhilarating experience at SEGA school for girls in Tanzania, that will stay for us forever. It was special because it was not only an educational chance to see a new culture, but it was a chance to get to know a local community on a much deeper level. My daughter, who is 13 years old, and I stayed at the SEGA school in Morogoro for four days. We lived on campus with 200 vulnerable girls age 13–17, and volunteered both in the classroom and out and both agreed it was one of our most life awakening trips. Our adventure began by being greeted with 200 joyful voices singing “Welcome, Welcome to our School” and was followed by numerous eye opening experiences.
Growth at SEGA
Having not seen the school for four years, I was really excited to see the physical expansion of the school, that was laid out so beautifully and simply. The growth of classroom and dorm space gives the campus a more full and active feel. But I was most proud to see the dedicated computer room, library, AND art room, filled with supplies that add a dimension of professionalism and specialization. The recent graduating class filled the computer room every morning, the art room has tons of colorful projects, and the girls lined up in the afternoon to read the assortment of books that they can now check out.
Highly Invested Staff
I was incredibly impressed with the staff — very friendly but disciplined teachers, very smart and dedicated volunteers, and many warm hearted but strict counselors. The girls are getting experience and education on all aspects of life, including promptness, good values, good decision-making, and confidence to do and follow what is right. I was struck by how deeply they work with these girls — one girl, for example, had made some bad choices, and was suspended. Instead of looking the other way, hoping she would change on her own, Astridah, the Head Mistress, approached her in a stern but motherly fashion, reminding her of the importance of this opportunity at SEGA and giving her one more chance —as a result, she has completely changed her intent and perspective on who she is in life. She’s now one of the main leaders in her class, not just to the teachers but to her peers in terms of doing what is right. The teachers seem to do so much beyond just caring for the girls on campus — they push them to be the best they can be while supporting them like family.
Developing Relationships with Students
But of course the most meaningful part of the trip was getting to know these incredibly motivated, smart girls who are so grateful for this opportunity. They understand that this an education way beyond the classroom. Not only does it keep them out of risky life paths in their village, but it offers them the knowledge, confidence and initiative to go after their dreams. Because these girls are so grateful for this opportunity, they are dedicated to doing something great with their education. And they are not just thinking about a successful job but one that gives back to their community.
My daughter was inspired by the girls’ open heartedness, their friendliness and warmth to us as visitors, and their incredible hard work academically and physically. We witnessed them all day on Saturday doing the laundry, swathing the grass and mopping the floors. On Sunday, we watched them ironing their uniforms, which in itself seemed to take hours — they each get piles of coal, burn the coal, put a few pieces in their metal iron, iron part of their uniforms, empty the cold coals and fill again with hot coals over and over again. But as with all their chores, they did it with joy, pride and a big smile on their face.
The Power of Home Visits
Our most eye-opening experience was the home visits, which gave us perspective of how far these girls have come. We learned of the hardships of where these girls come from and the challenges in their villages, including marriage and babies at a very young age. We learned how many of these girls do not have a strong family structure to protect and guide them. My daugther very quickly came up to me with a deep sincere sigh and said “I can’t believe how full of joy these girls are, knowing the hardships and challenges that surround them.” One of the homes we visited was the family of a girl that we had sponsored for years and I had the joy of hosting her at my house in Connecticut during her US visit. She is like a daughter to me, and her happy loving mother quickly adopted my daughter as well — pulling my 13 year old daughter across the room onto her lap and hugging and kissing her for 30 minutes, oozing gratitude for the opportunity her daughter has been given and trying to give that back.
Celebrating One Billion Rising
One of the highlights from our visit was seeing the girls on February 14, celebrate One Billion Girl Rising, a movement to stop violence against women around the world. A few of the girls had learned the dance at a leadership conference the previous month and they taught their 200 fellow students. To see them all dance in unison, with power, determination and excitement gave me chills — not only for what the school has already done for them but for what impact these girls will likely make in their life.
A Perfect Ending
As we sadly ended our last day at SEGA with some bittersweet good byes to all our new friendships, one girl yelled out: “Mika, Mika, I want to sing you a song.” She sang a song full of heart and meaning, with a message of “remember me,”. Then she started another song, and very spontaneously girls coming down the paths from all different directions joined in and soon we were surrounded by a beautiful sound of 40 harmonized voices singing “Lean On Me.” It struck me as we walked away, how appropriate that song was to show their strength and resilience…….. they offer that we lean on them instead of vice versa.