Erica Preusse ‘99: Reaching out to Africa Part 3

Erica Preusse '99, photo 8One requirement for this trip was for us to take time for fun. We spent two amazing days on safari at Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater. We saw every type of wildlife imaginable: Baboons, buffalo, wildebeest, impala, zebra, warthogs, jackals, black rhino, giraffe, elephants, a cheetah and even a lion kill! I felt like we had been blessed with those two days as a reward for the work we were doing at St. Lucia.

Erica Preusse '99, photo 11We also spent a long weekend on Zanzibar Island, right off the coast of Tanzania. The highlights of this part of the trip were the incredible sunsets and the Full Moon Party we attended at Kendwa Rocks resort. Hanging out with the Masaai tribesmen who sell art on the beaches was certainly an experience!

Back in Arusha, we spent our last few days at the daycare and orphanage. I had the most unique, heart wrenching experience of the trip in our final days in Tanzania.

While walking the two miles from the daycare to the orphanage, a little girl – 9 or 10 years old – started following us. She was talking in Swahili, but we didn’t understand. Most people there, especially children, think it’s exciting to say hello to a Mzungu (Swahili for ‘white person’). But after she followed us for a while, I realized this was different. This girl was keeping pace right beside me. Then she was holding my hand. I asked her name. “Queen”, she replied shyly. I tried to ask her more questions, but she didn’t speak English.
Erica Preusse '99, photo 9
We took Queen to the orphanage, where after lots of questions from the teacher and a 40 minute van ride up the side of the mountain to her home, we discovered this was one determined little girl. Queen had walked into town to go to St. Jude and other boarding schools in the area. She wants the opportunity to leave her home environment (a 2 room shack in the mountains) and go to boarding school. When Queen saw us walking she’d already been turned down at all the schools and we were her last hope. I was choked up.

The Teacher told Queen and her older sister they could come to St. Lucia and talk to the director, Winfrida. It’s a difficult situation because she lives so far out of town finding a proper school is difficult. Queen doesn’t appear to be sick with HIV, so St. Lucia can’t take her in either. Besides, they’re already over capacity.

The next day, Queen and her sister walked to St. Lucia to meet with Winfrida. She found Queen a school uniform and gave her some writing books. I gave her my $7 Wal-Mart shoes that are much too big, but along with the used uniform, will get her back into school. Winfrida also provided a bag of rice and some grain and vitamins. It’s not the perfect solution, but it’s something for now.

The problem is just so huge – there are lots of children like Queen in Tanzania – there are just not enough resources to help every one of them. For more information, photos and videos from my adventures in Tanzania, visit:
Erica Preusse '99, photo 10


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