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|In January 2009, Sister Jackie Goodin, CSJ, embarked on a physical and spiritual journey to Songea, a small rural town in southwest Tanzania, an East African country. She ministers at St. Joseph Hostel, a residence for girls and teenagers sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery. The Hostel provides a safe and caring environment which allows the girls to complete their high school education in town. She works alongside other Sisters of St. Joseph caring for the girls’ day-to-day needs.
SISTER JACKIE'S BLOGOctober 2014What the girl in this picture is saying to me (and perhaps to the world)The Ministry of the Arts, a sponsored ministry of the Congregation of St. Joseph, every year publishes and prints a beautiful calendar with a wide diversity of artwork accompanying the dates. In the time that I have been in Tanzania, I have gifted our two houses here with a calendar for a Christmas present; the sisters love it!
At the end of June 2014, I was thrilled to turn over the calendar page to reveal the July artwork. A beautiful girl appeared to me—an African-American girl. “Beauty Blooms” by Annie King Phillips stimulated an evocative response in me and I thought the girl in the picture would speak directly to our girls in St. Joseph Hostel in Songea, Tanzania. It is so unusual to see artwork like this, featuring “blackness,” here in Tanzania—a beautiful black young woman—that I just had to share her with the girls.
So the idea of a contest came to me.
As you may remember from earlier blogs, the method of teaching here in Tanzania is based on memorization. I have seen our girls struggle with any thought process requiring creativity and imagination (though they are very creative with anything having to do with fashion!). Having the right answer, even if it is in a language they don’t understand (i.e. English), is the important thing.
Back to the contest. We invited the girls to imagine what the girl in the picture is saying to her and then to write 2-3 paragraphs, in English, about the picture. Of 54 girls, only 5 attempted this. Two of these short essays are dandy and I want to share with you excerpts from their imagination. The girls who submitted essays (a tie for first place, second place, and 2 honorable mentions) were each gifted with a special prize: a pair of tights, a smelly good soap from USA, and a bar of laundry soap. The co-winners for first place are both scholarship girls, meaning they come to us because of financial need and academic ability.
Monika is a Form II student who is class girl—that is, she has been recognized by her teachers as an outstanding student-leader for her class. This is some of what she wrote (a bit edited by Miss Clavell):
|Rose (left) and Monika (right)|
She is a woman created by God. The beautiful flowers say that the girl is like a good flower. Humans were created in God’s image, so there is nothing more beautiful than this human face.
She is an African woman and she wants to tell us to respect our sisters, to love and respect all people because all are created by God. We are supposed to love and respect the people of Brazil, America, and India [we Hostel sisters come from these nations] and all other countries because all are equal and created like the face of God, without consideration for skin color. This girl also tells us that we are supposed to study hard in order to pass our exams. As women, we are able to achieve many things—not just the men—such as to be President of our country.
We will be the donors for the next generation so we must change our behaviors into good.
The co-winning entry is by Rose, an outstanding student in Form I. She shows particular aptitude in the sciences.
The girl wants to say something about beauty. She wants to tell us that the beauty of a person is not outside our body, like our hair or face, but the beauty of ourselves. It is inside our body, in our heart. God does not look outside our heart but inside our heart. And when we look inside our heart with our feelings we see if our heart is nice or ugly.
This girl wants to say that when our heart is filled with love, kindness, joy, and bravery, we look like a beautiful flower. That is why the girl is inside the flower.
Thank you, Ms. Phillips and Ministry of the Arts for bringing this piece of beauty to the girls of St. Joseph Hostel. We are so grateful for your sharing of this beautiful artwork to spark our inner beauty, regardless of skin color or nationality! Asanteni sana (“thank you to all”)!
For those of you who remember “Candid Camera” from the 1960s, I have some candid shots of our “scholars” who gave themselves up during afternoon study. The girls hate it when I startle them with a camera flash and they wonder why all the other girls are laughing at them! I sometimes use the camera to catch them at bad table manners, too. Well, there are all sorts of ways to learn about good behavior—catching them at good behavior is the best way, of course. But….catching them at bad behavior sometimes works, too. The sleepers will remain anonymous.
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September 2014This is the letter that we recently sent to all the schools that our girls presently attend. Only one Headmaster has responded! The attached photograph shows bruising on the hands/wrists of girls who were “beaten” because they did poorly in an examination. The marks might be hard for you to see, but we saw them quite clearly. We applied some salve and said how sorry we were that this had happened. This type of physical punishment is oh so common here.
In 2014, St. Joseph Hostel in Mateka is completing nine years of service to the young women of Tanzania. These years, we have been pleased to work with educators from various schools where our girls study. Your dedication to teach Tanzanian youth parallels our goals at the Hostel.
We three Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery presently working at the Hostel bring more than 30 combined years of diverse experience helping children in our home countries—we have worked as teachers, youth ministers, and social workers. We have gained insight into the lasting physical, psychological, and spiritual impact of physical discipline (some call it abuse).
Therefore, we wish to share with you our philosophy and approach to discipline that we practice here at the Hostel.
Like your school policies, we have high expectations about behavior so as to encourage our girls to develop self-discipline and a strong sense of responsibility, particularly towards their studies. Because of our orientation toward excellence and the wholistic development of each girl, we practice non-violent discipline. We do not beat our girls, nor do we have them perform strenuous exercise.
When a girl misbehaves, we:
1. Talk with her to help her articulate what was the underlying reason or impulse for her misconduct
2. Give her a “punishment” that is a direct consequence of the misbehavior. For example, if a girl is late for a meal, she eats cold food.
3. Give her extra cleaning or gardening duties, in other situations
4. With more frequently repeated misbehaviors, a girl’s name is often listed on the notice board for all to see and one of the above consequences given
5. In serious situations, we call the parents in for a conference and clearly state the behavioral expectations. We find that these consequences make a girl think more carefully before she chooses that particular misbehavior again.
With the constant threat of (and their many experiences of beatings) we see:
• how afraid the girls are of their teachers, rather than wishing to emulate them as helpful adult role models
• how afraid they are of failing in school work for fear of punishment, rather than striving to pass their subjects because a good education will help them be productive and self-sufficient citizens in the future
• how afraid they are to use their creativity rather than to enjoy the learning process, to truly understand the subject material, and to expand their minds beyond rote memorization
• how poorly they think of themselves when they are stigmatized in front of their school friends, rather than developing a balanced self-esteem
• how they always look for externalized sources of control, rather than building a strong inner “compass” to tell them right and wrong
• how they hurt from the beatings on the hands for which we have to administer plasters and pain medicine
We wonder how the chronic use of physical discipline:
• distorts or inhibits the “emotional intelligence” of those who give the beatings
• teaches children to beat their future children and students, perpetuating the cycle of violence so evident in modern society all around us
• discourages children from considering teaching for their future profession
We strongly believe that non-violent discipline is more effective and more respectful to the human child. It also:
• strengthens the child’s ability to problem solve before action and increases the child’s capacity for self-control
• teaches the child to “use words” (appropriately) and critical thinking skills, rather than his/her physical brute force
• encourages the child to communicate his/her concerns, thoughts, and feelings verbally, and in an appropriate manner, to trustworthy adults
• encourages conflict resolution
• teaches that all humans deserve respect and that no one should be treated as “object” and that teachers can be admired and respected rather than feared
• helps children take responsibility for misbehavior and clearly set goals for the desired behavior
Finally, non-violent discipline teaches peace as a way of life.
Out of respect for our program and philosophy we, therefore, do not give our permission for the use of physical discipline against our girls. We have shared with you options to help motivate any of our misbehaving girls to change her ways. As always, we wish to know of any academic or behavioral problems promptly so we can address them in a parallel manner here at the Hostel.
We hope these comments communicate clearly our position about discipline—in the Hostel, in schools, and in families. You are most welcome to share this letter with your staff if you think this helpful. Please feel free to contact us if you have further thoughts or questions.
Sr. Eliana Sr. Jacqueline Sr. Nilza
These stories will make you weep—with sorrow and joy!
From Sr. Jackie: Devota’s story isn’t typical, but it’s not all that unusual, either. Some of our girls come from “intact” but poor families. Quite a few have lost one or both parents due to abandonment, parental separation or divorce, mental illness, or death. Some live with one biological parent and a step-parent (which not always is a supportive relationship).
We are encouraging Devota to work hard in her studies because she (and we) know what will happen to her if she doesn’t pass her Form II National Examinations. She really, truly needs all of our (including yours’) love and support.
“I AM DEVOTA”
My name is Devota. I was born on 1st of July 1998 in Tanzania. I am blessed with three brothers and I’m the only daughter to my parents.
I have one older brother and two younger ones. They all live with various relatives. I live with my uncle and aunt, along with their children, in Songea. My uncle works as a catechist in the parishes.
As far as I remember, my parents were a loving couple working together as farmers and lived very happily in the village. Their wish was that we four children would be educated well, especially me being their only daughter. They always advised me to study hard and to finish my primary schooling, then go for secondary education and to have a good job in my life.
You don’t believe what happened to this lovely couple one fine day. As usual my mother went to the farm in the village to harvest the white maize. While she was working, she was attacked by a cruel man who had no mercy on my mother. He dragged her to a faraway place where she was brutally murdered and dismembered. The day went on with no sign of my mother. Meanwhile, my father and I did not know anything. He called me and told me to clean the vessels and the house. After this I went to school as usual. While I was returning from school my aunt had the news of my mother. She told me my uncles wanted to talk to me and to come home soon. I asked, “What? What do they need to talk to me about?” My aunt told me something happened to my mother. I was shocked to hear this. I burst into tears. My aunts were crying. My father arrived home and consoled me saying, “My dear Devota, your mother is no more on this earth today (25th May 2011). She is dead.”
The village authority informed the police and the investigation was begun. Close to her body was a sandal of that wicked man and another shoe was close to the river. Finally he was arrested and was put in the prison for some time.
After the funeral, my aunts and uncles advised us not to stay anymore in that village because it would bring us memories of my mother. So after this talk we had to disperse ourselves to one aunt and another, and so forth. So this is how my family was divided. After this we have never come together as a family. I do miss my brothers along with my parents. Well, my father is having another wife. I do visit them sometimes
Although I have food and shelter from my aunt and uncle during holidays, I go to the St. Joseph Hostel and am in the Scholarship program during the school year. I miss my own family very much, especially their love and support.
My relationship is hard with my cousin who is studying with me in the same school and participates in the Scholarship group also. At times her parents (my aunt and uncle) do not treat me so well; everything comes first to her and then secondly to Devota. Sometimes I am like the maid in the family. But I have no other choice left. I do miss my parents when my uncle gets angry and beats me as I had failed my exams this year.
It was the idea of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery to include me also in this Hostel scholarship program so that I can get a chance to study, just like other girls. I’m grateful to them and to the donors of for giving me this golden chance to finish my secondary schooling.
I try my best to do well in my studies (Form II) as I’m an average student. I ask God and you, my dear friends who read my life history, to continue to hold me in your heart.
From Sr. Jackie: We really are so proud of Elizabeth, and several of our girls who are at the top of their respective classes! Of course, not everyone can place first or second, but we encourage all of our girls to achieve to the best of their abilities. We are very confident that Elizabeth will do well in her Form IV National Examinations. She will need a financial sponsor to continue her studies for college.
“My life as a translator at St. Joseph Hostel”
My name is Elizabeth. I’m 17 years old and I am in Form IV this year. My aim is to explain how I got the experience to speak and to translate the English language.
When I was in primary school, I didn’t know how to speak English; I only knew how to introduce myself, but nothing else. But I liked very much to try to speak English. I promised myself that one day I would speak English. I finished my primary education in 2010 and I got a chance to get help from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery. I was so surprised.
I remember in October 2010 when I finished National Exams after grade 7, I began Pre-form I English at St. Joseph Hostel. There the Sisters taught us how to introduce ourselves, how to greet, and many other things in English. Slowly I began to understand some vocabulary words. Although I knew few words, I was so happy to speak a little English.
When I was in Form I, I spoke broken English. When I spoke a wrong word, the Sisters tried to correct me. When I was in Form II, I joined the Debate Club at school. In my class I was the only girl who joined the Club. This was because most of the girls felt very shameful to speak in front of all the students. But I didn’t feel shame and I decided to go to try because I understood that “no one is perfect” and “practice makes perfect.” My first day to speak in the Debate Club, I spoke many broken English words. The others laughed at me, but I was not disappointed and I tried to practice more and more. I decided to learn new words—at least five words every day. I did this for four months and I began to improve my English.
When I entered Form III, I was able to read, to write and even to translate some English. Also, the Sisters helped me to improve my language skills because they always invited me as a translator when there was a parents’ meeting, guests, and even sometimes various papers to translate. When I made a mistake, they would correct me. That’s why I know how to speak English.
Even when there are special guests or donors, I am a translator for the parents who usually only know Kiswhahili. I am very happy to know English because, first, it helps me in my studies which are in English. Secondly, it will help me to speak with other people from foreign countries. My future is to become a doctor or an engineer or scientist.
Lastly, I would like to thank the Sisters, donors, and all who work within the Congregation of St. Joseph because, without your help, I wouldn’t know how to speak English. I ask God to bless the Congregation and all who are a part of it.
In My Next Career, I Will Not Be A Manicurist! Before the girls left for their home villages in early June for a long school holiday, we Sisters planned some fun activities to conclude Term I. Our last night together we brought out many wild colors of nail polish and gave each girl a manicure with the color of her choice. Some tried to sneak a bottle so as to apply an extra coat of lacquer. You can see the concentration on my face as I tried to brush on, oh so carefully, the deep red colors that the girls seemed to prefer this year. Pressure! Some wild bongo (pop) music was going on in the background as the girls worked off their excess energy with dancing. It was a wonderful evening though becoming a professional manicurist is definitely not in my future!
Since the beginning of the Hostel nine years ago, we were always running short of clean water for drinking and cooking. Finally, we were able to secure funding to build a high tower to house a large water tank. This project was completed in
March 2014. Our contractor assured us that it would be a “small” project, surely to be completed within six weeks. Well, we laughed as it turned into a six month project! (This is like all things Tanzanian.) Nonetheless, before holiday we were preparing for a prayer service of gratitude for the gift of water, the gift of fine workers, and the gift of donors. We gathered the girls for a ”photo op” and then …. I huddled with the girls to plan the surprise action. Then 15 seconds of high, high energy as the girls enjoyed the gift of playful water. The girls went wild splashing water on their friends while their friends ran frantically to escape the sprinkling.
After the prayer service on June 28, some of the girls who receive full scholarships and their parents gathered with Sr. Clementina and Sr. Philomena of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery leadership team. This was Sr. Clementina’s sixth trip to Tanzania, but Sr. Philomena’s first trip. The girls prepared a traditional program to welcome the Sisters, including presenting each with an OFFICIAL St. Joseph Hostel uniform t-shirt—which I’m sure they are wearing at every opportunity all over Rome where the leadership team lives. Well, it was a glorious long holiday (one month) here at St. Joseph Hostel but it is time to get back in the saddle and really get serious about those pesky (but so very important!) National Examinations which will be held in October and November. All of the Hostel Sisters are rested and already looking ahead to recruiting the next group of scholarship girls for the 2015 school year. The girls, too, enjoyed their holiday—well, maybe not so much the Form II and IV girls who had extra tutoring at school. I’m preparing myself for the shrieks that signal reunion when most of the girls return on July 13. Then again, we will have a full house. We have some very bright girls who are at the top of the classes and many who are of average ability. Every girl here wants a good education. Some have learned how much hard work this takes, while others wish learning didn’t require so much self-discipline.
Be in solidarity with them as they struggle with English. Be in solidarity with our girls who are preparing for their National Examinations. Be in solidarity as they cope with the stress and pressure that these Examinations create. Be in solidarity with their parents/guardians who have precious dreams for their daughters. Be in solidarity with all children around our globe who do not have access to decent schools.
Next month I will post two very compelling stories of girls—one who will graduate this year and one who will complete Form II (and we pray continue on to Form III.)If you would like to learn ways you can help Sister Jackie's girls, contact Pat Milenius at 216.252.0440, or firstname.lastname@example.org.