Teaching Games in Shirati

Eli Horowitz is getting his MSW at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. He came to Maji Safi Group this summer to work with fishing communities in participatory learning and action, a series of group activities designed to help communities learn more about themselves and identify priorities for development. His professional background is in social work, especially working with kids in experiential education settings. He spent several summers working with camps as a wilderness professional, which included team building games and low ropes activities.

It was just before lunch, and there I was, tool in hand, sawing away at one of the yellow water buckets that are so ubiquitous around Shirati. I got more than a few confused looks and at least one, “Unafanya nini?/What are you doing?” But I was undeterred.

 

What was so important that you would waste a water jug when water storage is so precious in Shirati, you may ask. Games for teaching good water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) behavioral habits of course! Games that would entertain, engage, and teach teamwork and problem solving skills.

“Yellow Jugs” being used to store water at a home in Shirati.

As all the Mabalozi/Community Health Educators gathered in a circle under a tree in lieu of their normal Monday morning staff meeting, I was nervous. I tried to explain why experiential education is important, but through an interpreter, it is always hard to know if you are getting the right message across, and besides, these games are better understood through doing than saying.

We began with a simple icebreaker called ELECTRICITY. The participants hold hands in a circle, and everyone squeezes hands one after another to see how fast we can make it around the circle. The game is called Electricity for a reason, but this time it did not quite give a jolt. “Why are we doing this?” one participant asked. It was not an answer I had readily available, so I tried to do the only thing I knew how: facilitate another (more fun) game.

When we separated into groups for HUMAN KNOT, the mood changed immediately. It reminded me why a good challenge is important: When people are having fun and are challenged, the question shifts from “Why are we doing this?” to “How do we do this?” Playing Human Knot, the Maji Safi staff members were challenged in a fun way and even requested to play again just to finish working through the problem. By the time we finished, the groups had each given themselves a hearty applause and were eagerly asking for the next game.

Community Health Educators playing the “WATER FETCHER GAME”.

From there, things got exciting! We finally got to play the ‘WATER FETCHER GAME’! “You can’t step into the circle; otherwise; you’ll get bilharzia!” participants were warned, referring to the danger of entering Lake Victoria’s parasite-infected water. Through cooperation and conversation, the Mabalozi were able to use ropes to manipulate an elastic band around the yellow water jug I had prepared the other day (= putting on a water filter). Afterwards, they used group problem solving to flip the bucket (= fetching water) and put a ball inside (= treating water with WaterGuard). Confusion gone, the Mabalozi were all smiles. I asked who felt they could facilitate this game with kids at Maji Safi programs, and everyone raised their hands. I was all smiles, too.

MSG focuses on incorporating cognitive development into our programs through different games and activities.

We finished off with a classic game I grew up playing while attending Bar and Bat Mitzvahs: COKE AND PEPSI – a game that involves plenty of running, enthusiasm, and general silliness. The game ended with all in breathless laughter.

Today, nearing the end of the week and preparing for health screenings, the Mabalozi asked me if they could bring the game to the program they were running this afternoon. I haven’t stopped smiling since.

 

Another Spring of Kids Helping Kids

Increased reading speed, vast knowledge, vocabulary expansion, improved memory, increased analytical and critical thinking skills, better writing skills, better imagination, mental stimulation, tranquility and stress reduction, hours of entertainment – the widely claimed benefits of reading are numerous. In this year’s Maji Safi Read-a-thons, 57 Boulder Valley School District students reaped all of them and at the same time learned about global issues, empathy, social responsibility and helping others through personal effort.

The 2017 Maji Safi Read-a-thon at Whittier International Elementary School in Boulder was the fifth annual, and for Ryan Elementary School in Lafayette, it was a first. Staff, donors and many families love this recurring win-win situation that Maji Safi Group brings to the educational setting to encourage students to become excellent readers and ‘young global citizens’. This spring, the 57 participants read 650 books and raised over $8,000 for Maji Safi Group’s After School Program in Tanzania where children receive fun and interactive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) education to learn how to stay healthy and succeed in school. Since July 2012, Maji Safi Group’s Community Health Educators have taught 6000+ students in 10 schools, and in 2015, the District Education Office approved Maji Safi Group to teach WASH education in all 125 primary schools in the Rorya District.

Students in MSG’s After School Program doing tooth brushing demonstrations for their peers.

Read-a-thons are especially a great fit for IB schools, like Whittier, with a Primary Years Programme (PYP) whose stated goal is the development of the whole child, preparing students to become active, caring, lifelong learners who demonstrate respect for themselves and others and participate in the world around them. The Wildcat Student Council at Whittier backs the project, and members create momentum by visiting classrooms, making and distributing posters, and making school-wide announcements. At Ryan Elementary, this first Maji Safi Read-a-thon was a fifth-grade project organized by teacher Molly Hayes.

Thanks for organizing such wonderful opportunities for our neighborhood kids to grow up really seeing firsthand how they as individuals have a positive impact on the lives of others.
– Whittier parent –

This year, we honored all participants with certificates, thank you cards made by our program participants in Tanzania, ‘young global citizen’ photographs and ice cream coupons donated by Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, Lindsay’s Boulder Deli and Eats & Sweets. We also had the special honor of recognizing three ‘young global citizens’ at Whittier who have participated all five years: Amanda Kohla, Calder Leland and Sean Lewis.

 

 

I have participated in the Maji Safi Read-a-thon for five years now. It has been an amazing experience for me. I chose to do this because I love reading and I love helping people. I have always had enough of everything. Some people in Tanzania don’t. They don’t even have clean water. One of my favorite things is reading. Being able to read and at the same time help children and adults in Tanzania was cool. I have had fun getting to raise money for these people, reading books, and getting to know the people that organize this.
Amanda Kohla

This spring also included working with students in the Leadership Class at Casey Middle School in Boulder. Offering the students in this elective to do a ‘Global Improvement project’ with Maji Safi Group has become standard every semester. This time, four students participated in an art project where they made beautiful greeting cards with alcohol ink. The cards were sold at Africa Night in April and brought in well over $100.

 

 

As Whittier graduates continue their education at Casey Middle School, Boulder High School and CU at Boulder, we are hoping to create a ‘young global citizen’ trail through the Boulder Valley School System and beyond. Anyone who is interested in helping young people get involved in empowering the vulnerable groups we work with in rural Tanzania is most welcome to contact Maji Safi Group about opportunities inside or outside school. We are only an email or a phone call away and happy to discuss tailor-made projects suitable for individual families or educational settings. We absolutely love seeing kids helping kids.

A huge thank you to all our readers and their families, their teachers, their donors and our generous ice cream vendors!Young Global Citizens Maji Safi