Atlanta Teachers Partner with Primary Schools in Zimbabwe

Follow Abby and Melissa as they travel back to Zimbabwe this summer!

To read about our wonderful trip to Zimbabwe during the summer of 2011, click on the posts to the right! Thank you for all of your support, this would not have been possible with out you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Week 4 of Zimbabwe 2012

Our last week in Zim was bittersweet, we were excited about the fun week ahead and I was anxious to see my friends and family, but we had created a new family on the farm and would be sad to leave them behind.
We decided our last week in the schools would be spent passing out all the books and supplies we sorted. At each school we asked all the teachers to join us in their school courtyard, we then brought out all the books and supplies, explained them, allowed them to look through them, then took a picture of the teachers and some kids holding the books and supplies. Abby and I also gave each of the teacher's in the Grade 0 and Grade 1 classes the books my 5th grade students at my school made (see my original post here). We both used the books in all the classrooms and left 2 books in each classroom we worked in. Since everyday looked the same at pretty much every school,  below are some pictures of our huge pass out!
Lukadsi Primary with their books and supplies
Sweet friends with math supplies 
Love the expression on this teacher's face at Lukadsi Primary

Abby and I explaining the books and supplies at Matopo Primary

Abby and Chappy with her Grade 0 class at Matopo 

A sweet friend with one of the books my 5th graders made! 

Explaining supplies to Silobi Primary

Sigiti teachers and students with their supplies

My grade 1 teacher at Sigiti Primary with the book my 5th graders made

Abby with her teacher at Sigiti with 2 books my 5th graders made

Passing out at Dobi Primary

Dobi Primary with all their supplies

Dobi Primary Grade 1 kids with a book my 5th graders made

Abby and I on the 4th of July sporting our red, white and blue. Happy Birthday America! 

With my grade 1 teacher at Isotcha Primary with the books my 5th graders made

Grade 1 classroom at Isotcha reading their textbooks from the supply shipment! 

Abby reading with a Grade 4 classroom, love it! 
After dropping off a ton of supplies our hearts were full. When we started our trip, we never would have been able to guess how perfect the timing would be. We loved sorting through all the books and then getting the wonderful opportunity to pass them out. This summer was a great summer of wonderful experiences for Abby and me. Thank you so much to the people who generously gave money for us to use on supplies and for the thoughts and prayers we received during our time away. Hope we can do this again next summer!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Week 3 in Zimbabwe 2012

Week 3 in Zim was full of fun with our new friend Chappy, plus we got to pass out some wonderful reading textbooks to the primary schools. On Monday Abby needed to be picked up from the bus station after her weekend in Harare and Chris thought if I went into town with Norma it would be the perfect opportunity for us to look for some school supplies. Remember this post and this post about our generous donors and school supplies? Well, it's harder than you think to come up with a good way to use donated money. You want to leave the schools with some great things, but you don't want to buy supplies that are not useful. We decided that we wanted to use the donated money to help create libraries in the schools, since the books came in while we were in Zim. So we were searching Bulawayo for library cards or index cards to use for their check out system. No luck! So I am sending cards with a friend in a week and then we left the rest of the money for Chris to use to buy bookshelves or trunks, whichever the school wants to store their books.
Tuesday we started passing out the reading textbooks. We went to Silobi Primary and Sigiti Primary. The teachers at Sigiti were so fun to watch. They immediately began flipping through the textbooks and talking through ideas together. It really energized us and made us feel like we were really making a difference.
Teachers at Sigiti, so excited about the new text books! 
Our picture before Chi Chi's "first day of school"
 Wednesday Chi Chi came to the schools with us. She was precious! She came to Chris and Norma's ready to go with the cutest outfit and a back pack full of supplies. As we rode down the bumpy roads she would pull different things out of her bag, chapstick, a half eaten lollipop, etc...She was going with us to visit a new preschool we were told about. At Dobi Primary Abby took the Grade 0 class out to the courtyard to "draw" the Zimbabwe flag, they were trying so hard and it was very cute to see the whole class sitting on the ground drawing. I got to take the whole Grade 1 class because their teacher was acting as the Head for the day. Oh, there were a lot of kids, who didn't speak english, and they were very naughty. I tried so hard to make it fun, by taking them outside, but man oh man, they were crazy once outside! At Isotcha it was a different story. The kids were so good, the whole class sat through "Are you my Mother?" and made all the animal noises, it was so cute! Abby played duck, duck goose, or what she renamed Monkey, Monkey, Baboon with the Grade 0 classes, and even got the teacher up to run around the group!
The group at tea break
Chappy posing with the flag pictures they made
The Grade 0 teacher playing Monkey, Monkey, Baboon
We visited the preschool and gave them some supplies to use. The moms and kids were very grateful for what we gave them and did a dance and sang some songs for us.
Abby and I handing out supplies at the Preschool
 Thursday and Friday we continued the book sort. I separated all the math supplies among the 6 schools and could not help but get excited at all the really cool things they were going to be able to do with the supplies. Abby learned how to sew and made a cute giraffe stuffed animal for Norma's sewing group to make and sell. She was very excited, and I think her creation was so cute. Saturday and Sunday we cut out more patterns for the stuffed animals and finished sorting all the supplies!
Math supplies sorted by Primary School
Abby sewing her first giraffe stuffed animal

The library books all sorted! 
And I will leave you with this picture, oh sweet Chi Chi! She had just gotten her hair braided and it was in a pony tail. She was so proud and kept whipping it around, so cute!

Week 2 in Zimbabwe 2012

Abby's sweet Grade 0 kiddos and teacher
Week 2 in Zim started with diving head first into all the schools. We went to Lukudsi and Matopo primary on Monday. We both spent the day observing again, but were easily persuaded to read books and sing songs with the kids.

Tuesday we went to Sigiti Primary. I saw a wonderful lesson where the teacher had the kids pretend to be robots who did whatever she said, a great way to teach them English. Abby quickly fell in love with her Grade 0 teacher, who was doing some wonderful things with her kids. Then we went to Silobi Secondary School and pulled some non-readers out of their Language Arts class to work on reading in small groups.

Abby doing the Hokey Pokey, a favorite! 
Wednesday while at Dobi Primary, Abby helped the Grade 0 teacher create stations where the kids worked on fine motor skills while cutting and tearing paper. Abby enjoyed seeing the kids move around the classroom and work on hands on activities!  I took a small group of kids out of the grade 1 classroom and read one of the books my students from Trinity created and "Are You my Mother" by Dr. Seuss. It was a wonderful experience. It took a little while for the kids to warm up to me, but after they did I had them act out the different animals in the book. It was a fun experience. Isotcha Primary was a similar experience! We left Wednesday very encouraged and refreshed. We also passed out supplies that we found were not being used into the classrooms. We put them in cleaned out cans so the kids could have supplies right at their fingertips everyday!
Melissa reading to Grade 1 students
Melissa and Chris with pencils and crayons

Abby and Melissa passing out pencil and crayons in cans
Thursday we went to Bulawayo to pick up a book shipment (which just happened to arrive while Abby and I were in Zim, it had been sitting in customs for 4 months!), drop Abby off at the bus station to go to Harare, and pick Elliot (an Australian guy we affectionately nicknamed Chappy) from the airport. Once we got to the house where the container filled with medical supplies and books was being held, we began to unpack the container. There were so many boxes that we knew the truck we rented was not going to hold our boxes, which was a really good thing! We worked hard moving and sorting boxes full of American textbooks, library books, and math manipulatives. Once we got home we were so tired, but our hearts were glad, thinking of all the great things the supplies would bring to the teachers. 
Friday we began sorting! It felt so overwhelming, we had no idea where to start. But we started with the textbooks, put them in piles of 10 so we could count them and give them out evenly among all the schools. 

A stack of text books
Mid sort on the veranda
Sweet Chi Chi sorting
 Saturday and Sunday Chappy, Prince, Chi Chi, and I continued to sort the books. They were such a big help. We started sorting the library books several ways. Our goal was to help each school create a library, so we were looking for books with pockets and cards in the cover. We also wanted the appropriate age level books to end up in the right schools. So we had a bunch of piles, one for each primary school, the secondary school, and books too old for either that would be given to the prison in Bulawayo. It took a while to go through the books because we all would get sucked into looking through them. Nothing warmed my heart more than to look up and see Prince and Chi Chi flipping through the pages of some of the books, engrossed in the vivid pictures jumping off the pages.
The sorting crew, Melissa, Chappy, Prince, and Chi Chi 
A slow process to sort all the books

Week 1 in Zimbabwe 2012

Abby and I arrived at the farm on Monday night, June 11, and it immediately felt like home. We walked into the same dorm we stayed in last year and couldn't help remember our time in Zimbabwe last summer. It felt so good to be back! On Tuesday we spent the day getting ourselves settled, helping around the farm and we even got to cook a little. We knew we would hit the schools on Wednesday, so we took our time resting and getting ourselves together. Plus we used this time to get to know Chi Chi again,  as you can see, it didn't take her too long to warm up!
Wednesday morning we woke up early, climbed out of our warm sleeping bags into the chilly morning air. Abby and I were very excited to get into the schools, see what had changed and decide what we were going to do with our time in the Matopos. As we got into the bright red fire truck, our excitement only grew. While traveling over those bumpy dirt roads we were full of anticipation. After making plans to travel back for almost a year, traveling thousands on miles on an airplane and a truck, we were about to embark on our adventure!

Chris, Abby, and I decided that Abby and I would split up, she would go into the grade 0 classrooms (US Kindergarten) and I would go into grade 1 classrooms and help however we could. These first visits would be just for observations, so we could pinpoint what we could do with our time. Dobi Primary, our first school, were taking graduation pictures of their sweet Grade 0 class. As we left the schools Abby and I made notes of our time, supplies we saw they needed, or areas where the students were struggling.

Thursday was a cold and windy day. Abby and I cut fabric for Norma's sewing group. It was not easy, as the chilly wind wanted to blow the fabric away while we were cutting. For lunch we had SADZA! (a traditional Zim food, its cornstarch and water, stirred till it gets the consistency of mashed potatoes) We also enjoyed some wonderful walks this week, getting to know our wonderful surroundings for the next 4 weeks.

 Friday we rested and I made banana bread out of old bananas. It was delicious! The farm was a different than last because of the lack of rain during their summer. They installed latrines for toilets and when we showered we caught the water in a basin, which we used to flush our toilets at night (so we wouldn't have to walk to the latrines in the dark). Chris and Diamond would have to haul water, so on Saturday we tried to get water out of an old borehole. Dennis, a guy from a neighboring farm, came to help put the piping down the hole. We all came to help hold the piping and prayed hard we would get water! 

And we did! Not very much, but we knew there was water underground, we just needed longer piping.

Hooray! Clean water! 

 Sunday was a day of rest, lots of reading time,  and enjoying the lovely scenery, before we began our 2nd week in Zim. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

School is in Session!

Melissa and I have been visiting the schools now for two weeks, and with two more weeks ahead of us, we are feeling very encouraged and energized by our work. We are visiting schools three days per week and working on school-related preparations the other two school days in a week.  On Mondays we go to Lukadzi and Matopo Primary schools.  On Tuesday we go to Silobi High School to read with the non-readers in an English class.  We are reading phonics readers with them and have already been able to help sort out the leveled abilities of the students with whom we read.  Also on Tuesday we visit Sigiti Primary and Silobi Primary.  And on Wednesdays we go to Isotsha and Dobi Primary schools.  At each of the Primary schools, Melissa and I split and work with our classes, reading with them, pulling small groups for literacy practice, singing songs and playing games.  Based on our host Chris' advice, we've decided to spent the majority of our time with Grade 0 and Grade 1, which are equivalent to Kindergarten and First Grade.  This has truly been the highlight of our African adventures so far! 

In other news, we are also enjoying time on MorningStar farm.  We have already made great friends with Prince and Chi Chi, whose parents Diamond and Caroline work on the farm.  Chi Chi waits for us to get back from the schools and then greets us with hugs, smiles, and jumping for joy! After hugs, Chi Chi always approaches us and says "I want to read," which makes our hearts so happy! This has become part of our routine, and to be entirely honest, Melissa and I can't get enough of it! We love reading with Chi Chi, and her brother, Prince, often joins us when he returns from school.  Even when we're not in the schools, we really feel we're making a difference in the lives of the two little ones we spend time with on the farm. 

So, now with two weeks left on MorningStar and working in the schools, we are soaking up every second.  Thanks to everyone for your support and prayers! Shout out to our students following us on this blog! We miss you all! 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lions, Rhinos, and School Supplies, Oh MY!

Extra Credit points to whomever can find Miss Walker HIDDEN in one of these photos!