By Charlotte Hill OíNeal
We at United African Alliance Community Center UAACC recently had the pleasure of hosting and interacting with a couple of dynamic groups of youth visiting from America. These college students hailed from North Carolina State University and from Stony Brook University based in New York. They were here to learn more about East African culture and absorb the sights, sounds, tastes and life philosophies so different from their own. They were also here to hopefully build friendships and bridges that might ultimately lead to an improvement of the life situations of people less fortunate than themselves.
The Stony Brook group was a true rainbow representative of the salad bowl mixture that makes up American communities. Their diverse group had ancestries that ranged from Africa, India, Korea, Europe and Jamaica. They had previously put out the word in their communities that they were planning a trip to Tanzania and through fundraisers, they were able to raise five hundred US dollars, which once they were here, was used to buy sets of clothes and shoes for each of the more than forty five children living at CCF, Children for Childrenís Future, a residential center for rehabilitated street children (or more properly children in difficult circumstances) located in Maji ya Chai. The students are enthusiastically planning to raise more money for school fees that will enable more of the children at CCF to go to secondary school.
The group from North Carolina State University, though smaller in number was just as enthusiastic to do what they could to help at CCF too! The group of six, lead by their professor, Dr. Craig Brookins, donated the paint, brushes and labor to brighten up the newly built dining hall at CCF. The dining hall had been built with funds from the Arusha Rotary Club.
Itís always enjoyable when we host youth visiting from all over the world and when we work with youth born and raised in Tanzania. It is always energizing and a continuing learning experience and helps to keep my antennae tuned in to what it means to be young and growing up in the uncertain future of todayís world.
When I think of all the wars and disease and grief and environmental destruction that encircles the globe these days, it makes me sad and anxious about what kind of future we might be leaving for our children. When they reach my age, will there be enough water to go around and will there still be life in the oceans? Will we all be suffering from skin cancer from the effects of the holes in the ozone layerÖthat is, if there is anyone left after the ravages of HIV/AIDS? I fear for the world and the future on this planet and often find myself offering heartfelt pole sanaís to youth that I talk to.
But when I look at the strength of will and creative determination displayed by so many of these young people, I have to take a step back and reassess the situation. Perhaps things arenít as bad in the world as the CNNís of the world would have us think! I can remember back in the day when I was a child in primary school during the cold war era and at the height of nuclear war scares. We would have safety drills where we had to hide under our desks away from the windows for protection. How our little wooden desks could offer any kind of protection in the face of a nuclear bomb is beyond me, but I guess that was an action in response to the hysteria that was sweeping across America during those days in the late 50ís and early 60ís. The elders back then were constantly bemoaning the fact that the end of the world would surely happen at any time and all life forms were going to hell in a flimsy basket!
Well, itís been more than 40 years later and the world is still here but the situation is very similar in my opinion, to the panic evidenced by so many people these days when they think of the so-called terrorists that are supposedly waiting to jump out from every nick, cranny and dark closet to devour us!
But just as when I was younger and full of hope for the future, despite all the dire predictions of looming global disasters, I find the youth of today are not much different at all. They have hope and the desire to help those who find themselves presently in difficult life circumstances. Whether it be Tanzanian youth who volunteer to share their knowledge about HIV/AIDS prevention, language, pride or entrepreneurship or visiting youth from other countries who come to Tanzania not just to see the animals and climb Kilimanjaro but who genuinely care about others plight in life and have deep felt wishes to alleviate suffering and bring joy to those who donít have much in their lives to smile about, they all have something in common that we older folks can learn from.
modified: August 08, 2003.