Perhaps the greatest blessing of the past three weeks has been interacting with the students here at Audrey Veldman Vocation and Technical School. The students, who range from age 13 to 23, are some of the most fun and enthusiastic people I have ever met. I have formed some very fast friendships. It feels as though I have been here much longer than just three weeks. Many of the students have already offered for me to come live at their parents' home (sounds like a good offer).
Befriending these students has been amazing, but it is a bittersweet experience. Firstly because they will be leaving for winter break in two weeks. They get a whole month off, so Tyler and I will be gone by the time they return. We will be saying goodbye to these kids forever.
The other depressing part is that we have slowly started learning many of their back stories. Since many of them live here at the school, it is easy to forget they come from extreme poverty. For instance, one of my favorite students is Christopher Burra, a 23 year old carpentry student graduating in November. He is a very bright and enthusiastic kid. He mentioned one day that he wants to join the seminary an become a priest. Sounds great, right? Well I found out from the priests that he never went to secondary school because his family couldn't afford it. He is too old to complete 6 years of secondary school, 4 years of college, then seminary. His dream will never be fulfilled.
Or there is Wilson Charles, an exceptionally athletic masonry student who always has a smile on his face. I found out on Monday that after his mother remarried, his stepdad wanted nothing to do with him. His biological father is an alcoholic, so that is no help. He is literally been homeless since the age of 17. He lives at the school during the school year and often sleeps at a local church where he does chores in lieu of rent.
I apologize for the somber post, but it is simply a dose of reality here in the Thrid World. The good news, however, is that these kids still may have bright futures. The school here has offered these kids a chance for a new life. The skills they are learning here will give them an opportunity to earn a stable income one day.
Despite their poverty, these students here are an inspiration to me. They live each day thankful for what they have and excited for the future. You would never know that they live such tragic lives.
Tanzanian Fun Fact: The people here don't have conventional last names like we do in America. They simply tack their father's name to the end of theirs. As a result, my name would be Gregory Peter.