Student travels on a safari trip, promotes passions in service, learning

Iman Blackwell

Austin Liu, News Editor, Reporter

To many students attending high school in communities across the state and the country, one of the more common times of feeling nervousness and pleasure is the expectation of the arrival of the beginning of summer vacation. After completing the final papers, projects, and exams, students are hopeful for the weeks ahead of them that they are able to decide to set aside for activities away from the often filled schedules during school time. Some plan to visit friends and family members from other areas in or out of the state. Others may choose to step outside to play sports or explore places with forests, lakes, and mountains through hiking and camping. Some others also will join many different types of camps and other programs. Others may stay home and spend some of their time resting or setting aims for themselves. The understanding of this is that many choices are available for students during this time. However, other students plan out some of their time for activities that many other students at school would not think much about completing in their vacation.

One of these students, junior Iman Blackwell, was a major example of one of these types of students. For three weeks during the months of July and August of the past summer, Blackwell spent her time traveling outside of the country and completing service work through the Global Leadership Adventures, or GLA, organization. The program that she chose brought her and 30 other students to the Central East African country of Tanzania, the location of the work that she would perform.

Describing her experience in a short summary, Blackwell stated that the primary work for which the group focused much of their attention was “teaching English at a local school in Arusha, Tanzania.”

Blackwell explained how her schedule for her days working through this program included many different types of activities. “At the beginning of the program, we were split up into groups of 4 to 5 [and informed about] topics to cover [such as perfect tenses]. Most of the students [knew] some basic English, so our job was more of practicing major topics rather than completely teaching them… Every day, there would be a set time for us to lesson plan with our teaching groups [to prepare] for the next day of class.”

She and other students also were active in painting the school’s walls and chalkboards and initiating a garden for the special-education students at the school. Some of their work happened away from the school as she and the other students visited the local orphanage twice during her three weeks through the program.

The effects, she believes, that were produced from her time with the students and children at the school and the orphanage was an important method of offering the students and children “new types of friendships and opportunities, even if on just a small scale.”

Blackwell, additionally, expressed that the influence of the development of the garden for the school community was a significant one because some of the students at the school “stay overnight and need food to eat” and that the garden would be able to benefit those students with those troubles.

Relating to the other features and experiences on her trip to Tanzania, Blackwell stated that the experience of moving around airports and traveling by airplane was one that was normal to her. Although she thought that there was not much problem with traveling, it was some different from her past times in the airport as she was traveling alone that time. Blackwell recommends that students planning a trip through GLA should speak with other travelers to become comfortable around them at the airport.

At the place that she stayed for the three weeks in Tanzania, there was a building complex with a kitchen and spaces for meeting with other students. Located at the back of the building were the rooms for the students with the rooms for boys and girls separate in a part of the building. The area, Blackwell stated, was very safe because a guard and other GLA staff members were watching for the students and building place.

For the staff members that organized the program’s events, Blackwell stated that they were very “friendly,… funny,… encouraging of GLA travelers to learn about the local culture.” She extended her admiration and gratefulness about the staff members.

“They are so polite… The international staff was… very attentive to… illnesses [of students] and [supporting] us [to] think deeply about our experiences,” Blackwell said.

Although the group of travelers caused some pressure on the staff sometimes, the staff was able to handle these situations and also lead the program together in that period of time.

Blackwell reflected on her choice to travel outside of the country during the summer for a few weeks and connected this to her enthusiasm of traveling and becoming involved in community service. Along with her father, they were able to encounter Global Leadership Adventures, the organization that managed study and service programs in places outside of the country for high school students. After thinking about joining a program through this organization, Blackwell decided to travel through one of the programs that focused on work in Tanzania because she before traveled to places, not in that area and was interested in gaining experience with the culture of that area. She began to plan out for the trip in the weeks before she would travel and met “students who shared the… passions [with] me” arriving at the airport.

In the few weeks involved in her work in Tanzania, Blackwell was able to know the about 30 students who traveled and completed work with her. One of the many features of the trip that Blackwell enjoyed was the ability to observe the culture of the area through exploring the area with other students which included meeting some of the Maasai people, visiting the prominent Mount Kilimanjaro land feature, and passing through some lands on a safari journey. She and the students were also able to speak with groups during nights about the problems and conditions of Africa and learn about many different perspectives on these topics. In her experiences through this program, the students and Blackwell were also able to listen to some of the people from the communities in the area speak about many different types of social and political topics such as medical problems in the country and the history of the country.

“Everyday was [a time] to learn… from the community and fellow students,” Blackwell said.

After the conclusion of her service trip, Blackwell returned to Northwest Arkansas full of contentment and a bright spark for action.

“Community service is meant to inspire GLA participants to return and [benefit others in groups in the community],” Blackwell said. “[It was especially an amazing experience that it was] no surprise [that] I was crying on the way home.”

Students with interests in joining one of the programs organized by GLA are able to visit the website online for the organization,, to gain detailed information about the times and places for these many programs during the summertime.

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