A few years back, The Woods Academy established a partnership with Hotcourses Primary School in Kenya and we began an academic and cultural exchange between our 3rd-5th grade students. It has been a wonderful partnership that has evolved to now include service work and social understanding throughout the region with Nyumbani Village and the Maasai Village. The partnership is so powerful because our two schools, along with the village and orphanage, manage the relationship in a manner that brings tremendous value to all, especially this week.
Justus Mwaka Musia, our main point of contact in Kenya, was just in the states for a visit and came to spend the day at The Woods Academy, meeting with students, staff and me. Justus is an amazing man who serves his people so well and shares with us the impact of the relationship when he visits. It is always great to have Justus on campus. This particular visit hit me hard.
Last spring, our school and student led service club committed to a water project for the people of the Maasai Village and the Maasai Pastoral Community Development Alliance (PCDA). We raised funds so that a well could be dug and clean water could be accessed by the community and the school on site. In our conversation the other day, Justus reported the water project was a success and that enrollment at the school in the village increased due to the access to water. Justus was greatful for our support and almost mater-of-factly reported on the increased enrollment in school due to water. Did he say that enrollment went up simply because of water?
Independent schools are spending hours upon hours on complex marketing plans and committing a tremendous amount of money and resources to find ways to increase or stabilize enrollment numbers. PCDA just needed water to get there. Perspective was not something lost on me here. Water, the most basic life necessity, is the reason for the enrollment increase at the school in the village. Of course it is. Water leads to growth. It was a pretty powerful moment when Justus shared this and I immediately began thinking of “what else can we do” to help get more kids to school at PCDA. We must do more.
By providing good and clean access to water it is allowing for more to be educated in this village. Our work with Justus and the village is showing us the power of simple necessities. Water opened my eyes to the work we are doing in Kenya and the ways in which we can truly make a difference with our efforts to provide a simple necessity like water. In a world where schools are competing with technology and state of the art facilities to grow enrollment, PCDA is accomplishing it with water. Simple, powerful and so refreshing.
The middle school years have a reputation for being a rough period of time for kids where name calling and mistreatment of peers is often the norm. Does this sound familiar? I know, it does to me too, it sounds eerily similar to the political campaigns we are seeing from our so-called political candidates as they run for party nominations right now.
So, I was a little nervous when our middle school students took to the stage for campaign speeches this past week. I know our kids well, and while I was not worried they would resort to calling someone ugly in their campaign speech or show an unflattering picture of their mom or dad on the big screen, I was curious to see how the current climate of politics would impact their middle school campaign speeches.
My faith in humanity was restored as I watched and listened to each brave young man and woman get up on the stage to discuss why they wanted to run, how they would make The Woods better, and what made them qualified candidates to hold a student government position. They would often compliment one another as they spoke, they displayed grace and a willingness to listen to the students and they ALL kept things positive (even when they spoke about areas they wanted to fix). I only wish I had videotaped it all and sent it to the “adults” who are actually running for President.
Civics and civility can go together. I know it can. I just witnessed pre-teens do it. In our upside down world of where “adults” are spending their days insulting one another and our younger politicians are acting like mature and responsible adults, I am just glad I am on the right side of this upside down world. Our kids can and will lead the way and this past Tuesday was living proof. Well done Woods Academy candidates. You have my vote!
I am just freshly showered after a cold and wet night of sleeping outside. Our 8th graders, as part of preparation for the Capstone Leadership Projects, just spent the night outside, in our courtyard, in a homelessness simulation. It was definitely cold and wet and not all made it through the night outside, but ALL took something from this experience, yours truly included.
The reflection we did this morning after the night of “roughing” it was fantastic. The students “got it.” They have a deeper understanding of what it is like for homeless men and woman. While it was just one night, and we all knew we would be back in our Sleep Number beds tonight, the thoughts shared by the students lead me to believe they will look at the homeless person with a Giant shopping cart, filled with plastic bags, cardboard and dirty blankets, a bit differently now. There was a great deal of empathy shared as we reflected and that makes me feel proud.
As I awoke this morning, after sleeping on brick pavers under a portico, with pizza boxes underneath my sleeping bag, I sat up to survey the courtyard where many slept. I was leaning up against the wall as I glanced over at the students, and then reached for my bag. I had to check and see who the New York Jets drafted last night. After gathering this all important information I noticed a zippered pocket on my bag that I had not opnened in a while. I unzipped the pocket to find a receipt in it from a stay at the Four Season’s Hotel in DC from November of 1999 (look below). Two things stood out immediately. This was the receipt from the night Brit and I got engaged and the bill was $648.02 FOR ONE NIGHT! Yes it was a memorable night as our marriage soon began and yes my wife is worth every penny of it, but $648.02 FOR ONE NIGHT!
$648.02 FOR ONE NIGHT!
The irony is rich here. Finding this receipt on the morning of a homelessness simulation is not lost on me. It is something I will probably never forget because the memory leaves a feeling inside of me. It only hammers home the point more about how fortunate I am and our students are as well. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” is a quote I think of often and believe in wholeheartedly. The UNS are not given much. They are definitely not given living accommodations for $648.02 a night. Last night will stick with me for a while. I know I can do more to help those with less. I think our students feel the same way.