We recently returned from a trip to visit the Serengeti Scholars in Arusha, TZ. Half of the Serengeti Scholars are in High School, soon to be ready for the next step, whether it be university or a job. Our visit concentrated on teaching the Scholars how to write a resume, how to interview for a job, and how to research jobs and university scholarships on the Internet. This was all new. While Career Counselors are so popular here, the position is never heard of there. Knowing this would be a challenge on our trip, I dug in. The questions I presented to the Scholars are commonplace here in the US. What is your birthday? “I don’t have a birthday. We are too poor to have my birthday celebration.” What is your address? “I don’t have an address……I live in the Village in a row house.”
By the time young men and women are in their mid to late teens, their sense of selves are well ingrained in their perception of who they are. For our Scholars, it is different. They have come together as a family, who help each other study, extend friendships to each other, and have a Project Manager who attends to their needs, and encourages their academic performance. This is admirable, to be sure. But apart from this support, who are they? To their parents, they are workers in the family. To their teachers, they are one of a hundred in a class. In fact, the common way to refer to a student us “that one.” How are young men and women able to overcome the status of being a “that one” and rise to a higher regard and existence?
Serengeti Scholars was founded as an educational organization. We quickly saw needs that called to us to become a Humanitarian Aid Organization. And now, we are a Career Planning Organization, destined to increase the self esteem of our Scholars whose shyness must be eradicated and sense of self increased in order to succeed in school and in life.