It has now been two plus months since I returned home from East Africa and Global Encounters. Not a day has gone by that I have not thought about GE or spoken to someone from our 2016 GE family. And while I ruminate on the experience, I have also been attempting to balance my academic studies, teaching assignments and volunteer opportunities. Thus, it has taken me months to semi-process the final week of GE. A week that is hard to forget.
Returning from Nairobi, where we toured various Aga Khan Development Network sites, participated in religious festivities, and went on safari, meant that the youth were back in the full swing of things. A little depleted on sleep, craving food from home, and some even their own beds, youth as well as facilitators and staff were also starting to think about the fast approaching goodbyes. Questions about how to stay in touch, how to take learnings home, and even some concerns about returning to friends and family who would no longer understand the youth’s perspectives began to boil. At the same time the youth were plummeted back into their core sessions , their service sites and capstones projects.
I will not deny, there was a few moments in the couple days prior to what we title the “Service Learning Summit” that I was concerned many youth would not have capstones projects to share with their peers. These projects, based on primary research conducted by the youth during the camp, were presentation responses to inquiries regarding life in Mombasa Kenya, the desire to become or know more about GE goals, objectives, and facilitator responsibilities and enjoyment, queries regarding the differences between educational systems globally, questions about aid, development, voluntourism, the hope to learn more about the impact of faith on one’s life, and so on. Youth spoke with service site educators, Aga Khan Academy educators, students at service sites, GE facilitators and staff, and others spoke to community members they met during various activities.
The outcome of capstones was beyond explanation. You had to be there to witness the success, to admire the comradery, and to fully understand the hard work each youth put into their projects. The night before our summit many youth were “secretly” awake till the wee hours of the morning working away on their projects, many had pulled out their best professional outfits, and all had their moment in front of their peers. We were exposed to presentations done through powerpoint, poetry, song, video, and a few group presentations to present blended learning on specific topics.
Without a doubt, the Service Learning Summit was a moment of pride, a moment of accomplishment, and hopefully an experience that each youth will carry with them for years to come. Let’s be frank, for some this was their first time doing research of any sort, others their first time public speaking, while for a few others this was the first time conducting such a project in English. To stand in front of crowds and share their personal learning is no easy task. My hats off to each and every youth!
Do not fear, we did not send the youth home directly after their summit. They spent a couple evenings working through structured goodbyes, performing in a talent night showcase, reminiscing about their month away from home and in a country foreign to most, and making sure they collected all necessary contact information to stay in touch with those that had changed their lives forever. Their last day also included some time at the beach. After all we could not send them home without the perfect tans!
Now, each one of the 167 youth have become alumni. Many still stay in touch, others still pondering how to continue their GE experiences at home, and some coming together to create community projects for youth in their own communities. But it is never really a wrap – these youth (and us facilitators and staff) are likely to continue our reflections, will plan for future camps, and many will remain connected while our GE experiences continue to live on in our daily lives.