Much of the United States is experiencing extreme heat and humidity (along with the political nonsense in Washington) and Des Moines, Iowa – my hometown – is no exception. I was invited by John Terpkosh, Des Moines’s coordinator of the parks and recreation service and USTA’s Community Tennis Association leader, to join him at Davis Park- the city’s largest inner city park. With pleasure, I spoke to about 20 children from disadvantaged backgrounds hoping to teach them a bit about Africa and its critically endangered animal species. Well, hmmm, I walk away from today’s gathering with more questions than satisfaction.
At Davis Park in Des Moines, Iowa on a hot summer afternoon.
It’s striking to me how the families my AoC team and I work so intensely with in the rural Rwandan communities will go to great length to get their children enrolled in our conservation and health education program. Baby brothers and sisters of our students are trying to get good marks so they may be selected to participate in our year-long course. Yet what I saw today -and certainly what my USA teacher friends have been describing- many of these students rather shove a teacher out the door than get an education. I’m greatly generalizing here and all cases are unique, but what a shame we have such problems in the US- a place where we live in relative safety, in peace, access to essentials such as running water, electricity, and food.
Learning about Africa and gorillas at Davis Park in the USA.
John and I are ready to try again next time I come home, perhaps in the winter. We can’t give up. If anything the day gives me more determination in better understanding what children need in order for my team and I to nurture in them more compassion to care for the environment and other living things. It’s tough. I look to our sweet Rwandan students in a slightly new light and with exceptional gratitude in being able to be trusted by such lovely individuals despite their hardships.
Children look at the many different photos I brought in of African animals. John Terpkosh and the Doster/Stanley family look on.
My mom helped me pack up my bags of materials when a tiny hand slipped into my hand followed by a voice from a darling girl saying, “We don’t want you to leave.”
Thanks John for this opportunity. See you next time!