Trip Start Aug 15, 2012
Trip End Aug 01, 2013

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Flag of Madagascar  , Androy,
Thursday, May 30, 2013

One of the hardest things to cope with when living in a place with such limited resources is seeing the people you care for struggle with basic necessities. Since I started teaching in Ambovombe last fall, I have had at least a handful of students fall asleep in every one of my classes.  At first, I would do what every teacher would do; wake 'em up!  I mean, I remember falling asleep from time to time in my high school and college classes, usually due to heat and (could it be?) boredom.  Considering it is ALWAYS hot in my classes here and that I teach subjects that the students have little to no use for in their daily lives, I can understand why.  But, since I am here to teach, then they are going to listen, gosh darn it.  It didn't take me long, however, to find out the real reason.

See, I teach in a fairly rural town, and most of my students come from even more rural communities surrounding Ambovombe.  The closest village is only a couple kilometers away, but the villages that feed into Ambovombe can be as far as 10-15km away.  This means that in order for students to make it in time for the 7:30 start of the school day, they have to start walking as early as 4:30AM.  Since pretty much all food available in the villages must be cooked, and there is no way they’re going to get up even earlier to get the fire going and cook breakfast, I have students who walk for 3 hours to school without any food in their stomachs.  They are then required to sit in classes until the 11AM lunch break.  As a result, by the start of my 9AM class, these students have no energy left.  They sleep in my classes because it is physically impossible to remain conscious when their brains and bodies have no fuel. 

So now, I look out at my class from the black board, see the 5 or more students slumped over their desks, and just continue teaching.  It gives me a sick feeling in my stomach every time I see it, but what can I do?  I can’t afford to feed them.  I can’t buy a car and shuttle them all over Androy.  All I can do is give them a place to rest.   As an educator, I want to help my kids succeed however I can.  My reach, however, ends at the classroom door.  There is nothing I can do, and the student’s parents’ are already busy trying to feed their 4 to 10 other children.  Honestly, just the fact that these families can afford to pay for their students to attend school is a small miracle.  It’s something I have to be thankful for in the midst of the disheartening situation.

Calories are so very valuable, and they’re something most of us take for granted.  So many of us are focused on eating fewer calories and burning off as many as possible.  It gives you a little perspective when you live with people who even a few calories can make the difference between getting an education that gives them a chance to contribute more to their families and communities or not even being able to stay awake.
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Kathy Griewisch on

Luke it was so good to see so many new updates. I just wanted you to know that your updates are being read and help me grow in my own faith journey. Blessings to you and the people you serve. One day I hope we will meet. You are an amazing young man. Peace, Kate's mom

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