Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 23, 2014

Student taking action in Tanzania

Aug 27, 2014
PHOTO SUBMITTED Maharishi School senior Dia Huggins works on a project at the Noloholo Environmental Center in northern Tanzania. Huggins spent the last two weeks with other high school students at the environmental center in Africa, as part of a service-learning project sponsored by InterConnections 21 and Arcadia Service Learning.

As Dia Huggins begins her senior year this August, her last of 12 years at Maharishi School, she is taking the long way back to school — not just across town and up the hill, but back from Africa.

Huggins has spent the last two weeks with other high school students at the Noloholo Environmental Center in northern Tanzania, part of a service-learning project sponsored by InterConnections 21 and Arcadia Service Learning.

When Huggins first started school at Maharishi School, she learned “the world is my family.” As she entered middle and high school, her understanding of her relationship with the world deepened, and this deeper understanding was supported by Maharishi School’s emphasis of key principles of citizenship: respect, responsibility, solutions and service.

Huggins put those principles to work this summer, engaging in a service learning project “to help US schools and communities learn about critical world concerns and take action. We [InterConnections 21] give students and teachers opportunities to ‘think globally and act locally.’”

One of the trip leaders was Evan Huggins, Huggins’s brother, who is currently the program associate for InterConnections 21 and a 2002 Maharishi School graduate.

Posts from the Tanzania Service Learning Project blog chronicle the students’ adventures. Traveling from Atlanta and Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro Airport was “thankfully straight forward and without any delay.”

The day after her arrival, Huggins and 15 other American students jumped right into action, beginning “our preliminary orientation to the trip, and after lunch, we [bounced] across the Serengeti to the Maasai Steppe and then finally to our home for the next two-plus weeks at the Noloholo Environmental Center.”

During their time in Tanzania, the students engaged “in experiential learning about an African nation, its cultures and related critical global issues that most young Americans are not exposed to first-hand.” Their service project was to build a library, “the first of its kind in the area,” next to the school in the community of Loibor Siret. The students would then teach “in the school, conduct animal counts on the Maasai Steppe, monitor game cameras and participate in building ‘living walls’ to reduce the conflict between lions and the cattle of the Maasai herdsmen.”

How did Huggins’s time of service in Africa affect her? Here is what she wrote in an Aug. 9 blog entry:

“‘We do not care about what we have, what we care about is happiness,’ explained Revo, a Tanzanian man working at the Noloholo center. It’s a simple concept, yet like the many other aspects of Africa, it seemed foreign. In America, we have a true love for our possessions. Consumption runs through our veins. To dismiss something we value so highly seems odd, maybe even uncomfortable for some. But here we are the strangers forever thinking differently. It is so refreshing to be in a place where success is measured by happiness. Intrinsic values appear to be extremely important, and the sense of community is strong. You can see the respect that people have for each other. There is something about the relationships here that seem to involve a deeper level of understanding. Our insight into this place has just begun.”

Arcadia Service Learning’s mission is “to provide community service programing for students that integrates social-emotional learning, capacity for leadership, development of character, cultural awareness and empathy. We collaborate with some of the most remote and economically challenged communities in the world, designing and providing sustainable projects that foster meaningful connections for our students and our hosts.”

Huggins demonstrated in her actions that she understands the connectedness of the people of the world. All Upper School students at Maharishi School volunteer for yearly service work for the community as a part of the school’s curriculum. Huggins understands the spirit of volunteerism with “a deeper level of understanding.” She understands that giving is receiving.

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