(See full story in Synergies)
Developing leaders from a young age – wherever they might be – is what 4-H is all about.
“All of these students who have come really are outstanding,” says 4-H Specialist-World Citizenship Lillian Larwood. “They’ve shown potential, and the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania thinks that by having them come to America and participating in the program, they will be even better prepared when they go home to be a future leader.”
The Youth Leadership Program, supported by a grant from the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is designed around five core themes: community services and civil society; civic education and engaged citizenship; youth-adult partnerships; communication skills; and planning and organizing.
For two weeks in early November, nine youths aged 16 to 18 and one adult from Tanzania participated in hands-on 4-H activities that engaged them in American culture and enhanced their leadership skills.
After returning home to Tanzania, each delegate is required to use the skills they’ve learned to complete a follow-on project aimed at improving the lives of others.
“I think that it’s very important not to say ‘everyone needs to do it the way the U.S. does it,’” Larwood says. “It’s more to say ‘Ok, here are a bunch of ideas, maybe this might be something that you think about in the future.’”
As an advocate for women’s rights and education, delegate Victoria Mollel is focusing her project on improving the lives of women in her community. Her goal is to raise and sell goats to gain the funds to send children, especially women, to school. She would like her project to provide women with the confidence they need to get an education and make a living for themselves.
“The women don’t have money for food or clothing so I’m going to show them the experience I got so that they can do a project to get money to support themselves in their lives,” Victoria says.
As part of the program, each of the delegates spent two days in an Oregon high school.
One of the delegates, Altho Njovu, says it was shocking to see the stark differences between Oregon and Tanzania’s educational institutions. The choice of clothing, use of cell phones, and the fact that students moved to their next class instead of their teachers, were all different. What really stood out the most to him, though, was the immediate access to information.
“The last day of school in Philomath we went to do a presentation about Tanzania,” Altho says. “We needed to draw a map of Tanzania to show them, but instead, the teacher Googled it and there it was. Students there can study easily because whenever they want to find something they can get it from the Internet.”
Altho’s school experience has been very different. Without computers readily available at the public school he attends, it can take weeks to research a given topic.
“In Tanzania the teachers write notes and then you have to find a computer on your own to go look into it more,” he says.
After seeing how access to information can enhance one’s learning capabilities, Altho has now made it his goal to find a way to bring computers into the classroom in Tanzania.
“I learned that as a leader we have to make changes in our community,” he says. “One of the projects that I expect to do in my school is to establish an Internet café because it will allow students to have access to different materials that will help them with studying.”
The delegates also spent time touring the coast, visiting local and state government offices, and participating in workshops learning leadership techniques and tools such as basic community mapping.
“Community mapping is a great tool to teach them because it’s something they can use back home,” Larwood says. “If you’re going to do a project, the first thing you should do is learn who is in your community and what resources there are that can help you.”
For many of the delegates, it was the aspect of volunteerism that most caught their attention. The 4-H program took the youth to volunteer at Corvallis Stone Soup, a free-meal-assistance program that serves meals to anyone in need, as well as the Linn Benton Food Share, a regional food bank.
“I saw how that organization in this country helps other people get food, and it was very nice,” Victoria says. “In my country we don’t have that program or service. I’d like to take that back to my country so that they could learn and understand that it is good to help other people who don’t have anything.”
It wasn’t just the delegates who gained life-changing insight during the youth leadership program.
Pam Bielenberg and her family played host to Victoria during her two-week stay in America and says that thanks to Victoria, she now looks at her own life through new eyes.
“Her respect for her elders and her politeness made me appreciate her culture, and then it made me appreciate how lucky we are to have the things that we have – washing machines, water that runs out of the sink and dishwashers. Their school doesn’t even have refrigeration; she’s never seen a refrigerator before,” Pam says. “I already volunteer, but the experience made me appreciate life and what I have a little bit more after this experience.”
Each of the delegates lived with a host family in the Corvallis area. This allowed the youth to experience the local culture as a local, instead of a tourist.
Many families took their host children to visit museums, snow in the mountains, high school sports games and even Oregon State basketball and football games.
“It’s part of American culture to get excited about sports and American football,” Pam says. “Their soccer is just as crazy, but she’s never been to anything like that there, so we just wanted to give her that experience.”
On the last day in Corvallis, 4-H brought in three community leaders to further define their follow-on plan and guide the delegates along their journey. The goal was to put some reality into their dreams, help them figure out the logistics behind their projects, and plan how they can implement it into their community.
“All of them knew what they wanted to do at the end, but they weren’t sure how to do it,” Larwood says. “This was a great way to finish off their trip by further inspiring them to reach their goals and help their community. I am so proud of each and every one of the delegates and I wish them the best on their projects and their journey of becoming a leader in their country.”
~ Heather Turner