Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Students on their way to Groton!

Hello parents!

The students have landed in NYC and are on the bus on the way to Groton. They anticipate arriving at the school around 2pm.

Erin Lasky
Program Director

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Students One Hour Delayed in JFK Arrival

Dear Parents,

The group has departed Dubai but the Emirates plane left late. Estimated arrival to JFK is now tomorrow, Wednesday, July 21, at 8:48 a.m. -- not 7:45 a.m. as originally scheduled. If you want to check again as the arrival nears, you can do so at

Flight number: 0203

We'll keep you informed if there are any other major changes to this flight.

Thank you for supporting our programs. This was a very successful program and the Groton students and faculty did a tremendous job in Monduli, Tanzania.

Ross Wehner, WLS

Students flight!

We have just received confirmation that the students have all boarded the flight from Nairobi and are on their way to Dubai. Please call the office with any question - 303.679.3412.

Erin Lasky
Program Director

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Team Tanzania!

Team Tanzania has been hard at work at Orkeeswa in the past few days, and has made significant progress. Everyone is involved in a different job, from painting classrooms, to passing buckets full of soil in the bucket brigade. The outside of a classroom block has been painted blue, the foundation of the science lab was cemented and the new basketball pitch is in the process of being widened with the help of Orkeeswa students. In all the effort, we’ve made some really great friendships.
Today, we were grouped with another Groton and Orkeeswa student to visit his or her boma (home). Though we were not able to spend the night at the bomas, we had a great time helping out the kids with their chores. Many of the girls collect firewood and water, often walking long distances almost daily. The boys graze cattle and goats and maintain their bomas. This morning we met the Orkeeswa students and walked with them for about thirty minutes back to their homes. When we arrived, we greeted their family members and gave them the gifts we had brought. The work then started. Some of us walked long distances (anywhere from three to twelve kilometres) to fetch water or firewood, bushwhacking through Tanzanian forests. (SHOUT OUT… Susanna, Jillian, and Talia walked around twelve kilometers to find firewood, hacking at trees with pangas to see if the wood was acceptable, then chopping branches down and walking back with the wood balanced on their heads.) Our lunch today consisted of PB&J’s, cookies and roasted maize. We hung out and played games with our host family after we finished our work, and at the end of the day, we all climbed back into the banana/party bus to go to the New Flamingo Guest House. We have two more days of intense work left until we head to Ngorongoro Crater and finally back home. We can’t wait to tie up all the loose ends on our Orkeeswa projects and spend more time with the kids in the next few days.
Maddy and Susanna

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMMY I LOVE YOU!!!!! xoxoxoxoxo, Haley

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More Pictures!

After beginning the day with a leisurely breakfast at the guesthouse we met the Orkeeswa students at the corner of the Sunday market. We split up into groups with about 3-4 Orkeeswa students per Groton student, and meandered through the various wares being sold and displayed at the marketplace. We discovered fierce bargainers in our Orkeeswa buddies, and came home with lots of goodies, including kangas (an African form of a sarong), traditional Masai jewelry, and beaded ties. Before the end of the afternoon, many of us began to feel like a real and welcome part of the community, as opposed to simply tourists. We saw a busload of tourists departing with packed bags of interesting stuff, whereas we had spent the day with our Orkeeswa friends, had been introduced to their sisters and brothers, parents and uncles, and really felt part of the community. After exploring the market, we let our Orkeeswa students choose a place for lunch in town (for most a luxury and a first, as they usually have a small lunch at school with ugali (a combination of corn flour and water). During the meal, we got to learn more about the students’ personal lives, and deepen the relationships that began when we first arrived at the school. As we shared our favorite foods from home around the table, a wonderful Ms. Miller quote came to mind: “Do you know what this is called? Globalization!!” So true! We’ve loved getting to know the Orkeeswa students, and can’t wait for our final week of work.
Julia and Kaly <3

p.s. We beg all of our families to record the world cup final for us to watch upon immediate return because our small hotel t.v. just broke!! (- Chloe)

E Viva Espana!

There is something deeply affirming and exhilarating about viewing the historic World Cup final from a small television in the heart of rural Tanzania surrounded by good friends old and new, and a Masai elder for good measure! It is a fantastic coincidence that Africa and South Africa are in the spotlight this summer as hosts for this fantastic global event for the first time and our trip in its own way is an expression of the growing and powerful links between Africa and the world in general, and Orkeeswa and Groton students in particular.

Our first week has been characterized by a joyful and playful reaching out toward each other expressed through the universal languages of sport and music. The hackneyed term ‘globalization’ assumes a new and fascinating aspect here when you observe Orkeeswa and Groton students dancing to the music of the Black-Eyed Peas in unison with a boma, a traditional Masai family compound, just off in the distance. But today on this misty morning atop the hillside upon which the Orkeeswa Secondary School sits, I am most interested in considering perhaps an even more compelling universal language; one that is all the time felt, but nearly impossible to describe. I have been most humbled to observe how fluent these students are in the language of compassion and the heart. In the perfectly ordinary activities of digging a pitch for a new basketball court or breaking up a concrete floor the finest qualities of humanity are displayed and affirmed among us. Sometimes with humor, caring, or just silent yet eloquent support after a hard job well done or perhaps only nearly done, our work has brought us together in the most subtle and compelling ways that no number of endless hours of ‘skyping’ could. The processes of bonding and connection I see, for example, with our inimitable foreman, Michael, and his student apprentices I am at a loss to describe.

In our time together in this remote place, I have felt such deep pride in our students, both Groton and Orkeeswa alike. For in their genuine openness and willingness to give of themselves two Truths have been discovered: that it is in giving that we always receive and that when we learn we also teach. What else would explain the alacrity with which our students appear for breakfast each morning and the excitement and zeal with which they describe their daily experiences each night? So, it is this indescribable alchemy of two seemingly different worlds that I am pleased to struggle to understand as we begin our second week at Orkeeswa. I can think of no more important form of globalization and expression of human interdependence than the one I am witnessing here in Monduli, Tanzania. Well after the memory of Spain’s victory of its first World Cup title begins to, fade, I hope that we will be celebrating our friendships and relationship with Orkeeswa School.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Updte on Groton Tanzania Service Project

Hello parents,

I spoke with Fred Beams and Ali Jean, the World Leadership School instructor, this morning. They report that everyone is having a great time. Students are thriving, getting plenty of rest and good food, are making great relationships with the local students -- about 40 of whom have been helping on various projects during their stay. The Groton students are working hard on five different projects:

1) Renovations at Lashaine Primary School (refurbishing 4 classrooms)

2) Construction of Lashaine Village Office

3) Construction of Orkeeswa Secondary School Science Building

4) Painting Orkeeswa Secondary School Classroom Block 1

5) Landscaping for Orkeeswa Secondary School outdoor basketball court

Attached please find some pictures from their stay so far. We hope to have more text by tomorrow. Thank you the support of our programs -- Ross Wehner, WLS

Friday, July 9, 2010

Talia-- Hi everyone! Today we had an unforgettable day! We almost finished the Lashine Primary School in the morning, and then we headed up to Orkeeswa Secondary School. We got a chance to meet all of the Orkeeswa students that we didn’t get to meet in Lashine. When we got to Orkeeswa we were given a tour by the students all around their beautiful school. After the tour we preformed three songs for the students, the first verse of the Groton School Hymn, Lean On Me by Bill Withers, This Land is Your Land This Land is My Land, and Wavin’
Flag (which is the student’s favorite song)! After we sang our songs the Orkeeswa students preformed a play about taking the test and getting in to Orkeeswa. We had time to dance, sing, play soccer and talk to all of the students. Tomorrow we will continue working on their already started science labs. Everything is great here in Africa! We’ll keep you posted!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What an extraordinary experience we are having in Tanzania. I keep thinking, as a parent, how incredibly proud all of you moms and dads would be of your children. As some of the other blog postings have indicated, this has definitely been a work trip; our group members and dozens of Orkeeswa students have been laboring side by side for four days now doing all kinds of fairly intense construction work at two different schools – a primary school closer to Monduli town (where our guest house, the New Flamingo (!), is located) and the remarkable Orkeeswa Secondary School which is located in the beautiful hills outside of Monduli, a 20-minute drive from town. Painting, sanding, shoveling, plastering, cement-mixing, hauling, hammering – all of our students have been working with amazing energy, determination, and focus at these jobs. Of course, the best moments are when a Groton student and an Orkeeswa student work together on the same project – and this happens all the time in so many different places. As I type this entry the students have all stopped working for the afternoon and are now playing soccer and baseball on the dirt fields near the Orkeeswa buildings. I wish you all could see the setting here.
Orkeeswa is constructed on something of a plateau looking out, in one direction, on small fields of maize and wheat with small traditional huts (bomas) visible in the distance; green hills not unlike ones you might see in southern New Hampshire stretch out in another direction; and in another direction you can look for tens of miles into flat savannah-like land. We are told that elephants routinely roam the Orkeeswa grounds at night; their footprints and droppings are, in fact, easy to find. And the antelope keep jumping the fence and eating the school garden’s vegetables. Also happening right now at the other end of the wooden table where I am writing: Cindy Beams, who has already taken hundreds of gorgeous photographs, is showing the school’s three female chefs a slideshow of pictures she took today – and the women’s faces are all smiles as they look at their own beautiful images on the Apple screen. Lunch today, by the way, was ugali (an African potato purée) served with vegetables and broth.
Nourishing and actually pretty tasty. Speaking of food, the meals thus far really have been quite good – and plentiful. We typically eat breakfast and dinner at a simple café in Monduli. Breakfast is usually fried bread, samosas, hard-boiled eggs. Dinner is rice, spaghetti (sometimes), a meat stew, peas, and usually some kind of chopped, cooked greens. Honestly, I have not heard one complaint from any of the students about the food. Their attitude about everything has been just tremendous; they are curious, outgoing, and warm with
everyone they meet. I spent most of this morning helping a crew of
students (including Gordon, Kaly, Talia and several Orkeeswa students) sift (with shovels and a large framed screen) a huge pile of sand and then transport it via wheelbarrow about 75 meters away. I was then instructed by our Tanzanian friend Michael (the school’s indispensable
jack-of-all-trades) to build a scaffolding table with scraps of lumber. Kaly, Tilly, and Chloe were wonderful co-workers on this project, along with three Orkeeswa boys who helped us hammer, saw, and reclaim long, rusty nails. And now it’s nearly four o’clock and things are winding down. Some of us are still playing sports, some are washing hands, filling waterbottles, preparing to head back down to the village. The students (especially Susanna) are quite excited about watching the Spain-Germany game tonight. Believe it or not, there is a small color television set mounted high on the wall in the small “lobby” of our simple guest house on which we can watch World Cup games. There is also another lodge in town (with bigger screens) where we might go this evening. I do feel like I am in real Africa here in Monduli. This is no tourist town. No postcards for sale here. Our guest house is right in the middle of a real Tanzanian community. People walking all about. Chickens scampering all over the place. Deeply rutted dirt roads. The constant smell of something smoldering. More work for the next few days. Perhaps a trip to Arusha at some point this week to see what that much bigger town is like. It’s a real privilege to be here – and an incredibly enriching and eye-opening experience in so many ways. What great companions your children are! --Peter Fry