In an effort to sync our Middle School’s year-end trip with the ideals of our Connect class, we launched our first-ever “Week Without Walls” trip to Aswan, Egypt. Before the trip, our students studied the history and culture of Aswan and the Nubian people. They also sold special “Compassion It” bracelets to friends and family to raise money for our service projects.
On our first day, students learned about the rich cultural heritage of the region with visits to the famous temples of Kom Ombo and Philae where our four professional guides explained the history and hieroglyphics to students. We had a special Nubian dinner at a family-run restaurant on the river; following our meal and visits with the resident crocodiles, the students joined our Nubian hosts as they danced under the moonlight on the banks of the Nile. It was a magical moment for sure!
On our first service day, we partnered with Egyptians Without Borders, a non-profit that provides teenage students with educational opportunities in order to broaden their world. We did some icebreakers to get to know each other, learned about their projects and then discussed the sorry state of the Egyptian public school system. Our students learned about some of the issues their Egyptian counterparts experience in government-run schools and then brainstormed on how to portray our ideas artistically. Working together, they then designed and painted a giant mural on the walls of the community center where we were working.
Our second service activity was a hands-on opportunity for our students to live up to their commitment to “put their words into action.” We traveled to a small island in the middle of Lake Nasser where a few hundred proud Nubian residents have remained, despite the construction of the giant dam. Each student made a relief bag which contained supplies such as rice, pasta, oil, salt, sugar, cheese, spices, coffee, jelly and tomato sauce. Students then used art materials to add a personal touch in the form of a greeting card for their recipients. In groups, students then trekked through the 106 °F (41 °C) heat to hand-deliver the relief bags to the impoverished families.
Though this was an exhausting day, students really loved the experience. Each student had the opportunity to chat with the family that received their relief bag. In doing so, they learned that the similarities we share far outweigh the differences that divide us. Many students reached into their pockets to help these families with additional money to buy medicine or food supplies they were lacking. Friendships were made and tears were shed. It was an amazing culmination for our Connect students to be able to create positive change in these peoples’ lives and from the feedback we have gotten from parents and students, it appears this experience will leave a lasting impact!
Here is some feedback from students:
"This trip made me realize how lucky I am for having the life that I have. I never realized the small things I should be thankful for in my daily life like having clean water, food enough for me, going to a good school and getting a good education."
"This Aswan trip was one of the most memorable trips of my life. This Aswan trip really affected me as a person."
"I want to thank the teachers for allowing us to go on this trip, because it surely changed me a lot."
"I learned that I should always try to help other people no matter what and try to spread the blessings that God gave me. I never thought that this trip would turn out to be that way and to change me into a more empathetic person. It was a pleasure to join this trip and I truly did learn a lot."
"Something that went through my mind a lot during this trip was, 'Why them? Why wasn't I instead of them?' All I can say is in the end, I am very grateful and thankful for who I am, where I am and whom I will become."
"This trip made me understand the true meaning of empathy and it added to my personality an empathetic part for those in need of our help."
"Therefore it cannot be denied that this school trip was of great benefit to me on a personal, human, an educational and emotional level. I believe that I have become a better, more empathetic person now."
"On Heisa Island, when we handed the people the bags that were only worth about a hundred pounds ($13), they cried with joy. The feeling I had when I helped the people was a great feeling that I really hope to encounter again."