Juniors Brada & Cluckey Serve, Learn in Tanzania

Clare Ravizza, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Notre Dame Academy has always been a school focused on service. This summer, juniors Lilly Brada and Jennifer Cluckey took NDA’s outreach to an international level with a trip to Arusha, Tanzania.

The three-week program was run through Global Leadership Adventures (GLA) and was, according to Brada, “less of a service trip and more of a cultural experience to motivate kids to be international leaders.”

The volunteers, composed of 28 students from across the globe, were broken up into small groups that each taught English to a different class of the local children of Patandi Primary School every morning.

The Patandi students’ primary language is Swahili, but they take English classes “like American students might take Spanish or French,” explains Cluckey.

After morning classes, the GLA volunteers and the Patandi students would have a short recess outside and play games together, including standard American games such as Red Light, Green Light and Down By the Banks. They would also play “traditional African games,” says Cluckey.

Following recess, the GLA students would do labor service.

“We’d spend about 45 minutes either building desks, sanding walls and chalkboards, and repainting those things,” remembers Brada.

“On days we didn’t have school we’d go on safaris or visit the Masai village,” says Brada.

“Sometimes we had guest speakers come to home base and talk with us about social issues like HIV and AIDS or FGM.”

One of Cluckey’s favorite aspects of the trip was the language immersion.

“Prior to the trip, I didn’t even know Swahili existed. I was able to pick up quite a bit of it from being around locals so much. The kids also had fun trying to teach us basic stuff like counting. Each day they would teach me a new set of numbers, and because of that I can now count 1-100 in Swahili.”

While this was Cluckey’s first trip, Brada is a GLA veteran. Last summer, she went to Thailand to work with rescued elephants. Brada describes the experience as “an insane amount of fun,” and plans to head out on another GLA trip, this time to Fiji.

“All trips fall under three categories: environment, people or learning,” explains Brada. “Thailand was environmental, Tanzania was to be with the people, and Fiji will be another environmental study where I help the locals and also learn in depth about the coral reef and the issues facing that area of the world.”

Both Brada and Cluckey hope to continue their service, as well as their travel.

Previous to this trip, Cluckey had never left the country. This opportunity allowed her to step outside her comfort zone.

“[This experience] showed me where my limit actually lies. I also learned a lot about myself (as cheesy as that sounds),” says Cluckey.

Brada also sees immense value in travel, describing it as a “gateway to open-mindedness and seeing the world through eyes other than one’s own.

“It’s one thing to study the world and its cultures,” explains Brada, “but it’s a completely different thing to actually be a part of those cultures and to create new lenses to see our world through. Immersion in a culture is the ultimate way to understand it.”

Cluckey found this immersion not only to help her understand the Tanzanian culture, but also to bring her closer to the other GLA students.

“Being surrounded by new people in a new environment really makes you put a lot of trust in other people and in yourself, and without going on this trip, I feel as though I might never gain that amount of trust for other people. My fellow GLA students were very influential to my growth as a person. After spending three weeks with people I’d never met, I have learned a lot about how I interact with new people as well as make some lasting friendships,” adds Cluckey.

Brada agrees, saying that the relationships she has formed during her GLA experiences will leave a lasting impact on her.

“I only know the people I’m with for three weeks, but I can say these people are forever friends. The experience we all go through together is indescribable to anyone who wasn’t with us,” details Brada.

Cluckey sees a definite growth in herself after returning to the U.S.

“To look back at the Jenn before the trip and the Jenn after the trip, I personally see a big change. I know the kids I taught and the local staff I talked to will forever be a part of me. To be welcomed into such a different culture definitely showed me a different way of life that I will always keep in my heart.”

Brada and Cluckey both found their GLA experiences to be “amazing,” chock-full of lasting relationships and rewarding service.

“I would definitely encourage other NDA students to look into a GLA program if they can,” says Cluckey. “It forces people out of their comfort zones and inspires them to make a difference in the world. GLA allows you to learn a lot about other cultures, as well as about yourself.”