Ann Sponberg Peterson writes:
As I write this we are headed to the North. This entry will get posted when we arrive in Ondangwa, check into our hotel, and reconnect. We’re seeing loads of baboons, warthogs, termite mounds, and parched landscape. In another 300 km we’ll be slowing down for goats, long-horned cattle, and donkeys, since livestock have the right of way in Ovamboland.
This is my fifth trip on the B1 two-lane border to border. I can say everything is as it has been in the past. The drought is severe, but it did rain last evening, so there is a fresh smattering of green. Prayers for rain are coveted. In Windhoek the temps were in the 90’s to 100. It’ll be hotter in the North.
Let me tell you about yesterday. We had the occasion to visit the School for Visually Impaired, in Windhoek, to deliver our supplies of Braille books and math manipulatives to our dear friend Mrs. Marilise Fransman and the children in her care. Big news … Mrs. Fransman has announced her retirement scheduled for September of this year. She feels her work and ministry at the school are done. She delightfully told us and the students that this visit from Empowering Leaners and student musicians was the icing on her professional cake.
One of the pieces being exquisitely performed by our student singers is It Takes a Village, by Joan Szymko. The melody is beautiful and resonant. The words splendid. It takes a whole village to raise our children. It takes a whole village to raise one child. We all everyone must share the burden. We all everyone will share the joy.
It was decided this would be the piece to share and learn together with the choir of the School for Visually Impaired. Their choir has grown significantly since we were here last and these students – sighted, partially-sighted, and non-sighted – were jazzed to raise their voices in combined song. We broke into sectionals, parts were learned, and the resulting choral union was sweet perfection. This piece was deeply moving for me before, now it’s forever linked with the importance of our work.
After the singing, our students departed the outdoor pavilion and went on school tours with their new friends. Non-sighted students took the hands of college students, or held the elbow of their guest, and serving as admissions-like tour guides, led them around. Our singers saw it all, took hundreds of selfies, and learned the hopes and dreams of every student they encountered. The goodbyes were hard.
When we gathered back together, Mrs. Fransman spoke to our students. She talked about her career, the struggles with special education teaching and funding, and her decision to retire. She also spoke openly about how she lost her left hand in a car accident years ago.
As she reflected on the whole-village-themed-singing, she also challenged all of us saying, “indeed it takes a whole village, but don’t believe you can’t make a difference individually. Reach out from where you are, lend a hand, and make a difference.”
She went on to tell a story of how she once asked a classroom of young learners to draw a picture of the most important thing in their life. Each child then spoke about what they had drawn and why. The very last student to speak had drawn a hand. This young boy was quiet and shy and not at all forthcoming. Other children began to guess out loud why he had drawn this. Finally, he said, “Mrs. Fransman, this hand is for you. It is your hand. You have helped me so much.”
Lend a hand good friends. And welcome to the village.
It was a good first day for Empowering Learners.