GET TO KNOW OUR GRADE 8 STUDENTS: THIBAULT P.
“What you give today you get tomorrow” a saying by Matshona Dhliwayo, an author born in Zimbabwe, Africa, is just one way I might describe my trip to Africa in 2017. Although it started as just an opportunity to go on a safari and explore the land, it turned into much more for me. Before my trip to Africa the only community I knew was RA and Ridgefield, CT.; however, after my trip, I learned the true meaning of community.

Community means not only friendship and being together, it means doing anything you can to connect with someone or put yourself in their shoes. I learned this in a village called Ngor while visiting Dacar, the capital of Senegal. At first, it just seemed like a small fishing village on the coastline of Africa, but once we set foot in the village I realized how amazing the people there were. They were not only inclusive and welcoming but they allowed us to go into their houses and see what it was really like to walk in their shoes for a day. I was surprised to see that the houses in Nogr were made of rotting wood, dirt floors, and scrap metal used for makeshift roofs. The village also did not have any electricity. After we toured the village, we went to the main courtyard, which was a soccer field and a couple of benches. We played soccer with the kids who immediately welcomed us into their village and treated us like one of their friends. This immediate acceptance was one of the most touching moments of my life. At the time, I was only 10 and this was my first time seeing extreme poverty such as this. The people of the village showed me that although they may not have the best temporal conditions in life (certainly not what I was accustomed to) what they did have in great abundance, that was non-tangible, was their beautiful and welcoming community. While playing soccer with one of the kids who was six his dad asked my mom and sister if we would like a boat tour of the other beaches nearby. My family and I excitedly accepted the offer and we departed from the village with our new found friends. Just being on the boat with his son, who was a few years younger than me, allowed us to develop a bond, and I could tell from the look on his face how excited he was too! We visited multiple beautiful beaches and eventually stopped at one of them to have a picnic. While at the picnic, I played hide and seek with this boy and shared my salad with him so that we could eat together. Afterward, while everyone was finishing their meals we went back to the shore and I taught him how to skip a rock on the water. Even though it took him a while to learn, he was very excited as we were able to share a common experience together.

Although these activities may have seemed simple, going on a boat ride, sharing my salad, and skipping rocks together, connecting with the village boy for the week we were in Senegal truly changed my life. It taught me that I can form friendships with anyone even if they have trouble speaking my language like this boy did. I learned that if you try hard enough you can make life-long memories and friendships. As we sailed back to the main village of Ngor all the children met the boat when it arrived on shore and greeted us with hugs.
 
Before leaving we bought the village a four-month supply of rice, which although wasn't a lot for us, it meant a great deal to them. Like the quote by Matshona Dhliwayo says, “what you give today you get tomorrow” I think about what I “got” from that visit to Ngor all the time. We gave them food and rice but they gave me friendship and gratitude and an appreciation for community that to me was more valuable than anything.