St. Joseph Hostel Girls Look Back and Ahead
By Sister Jackie Goodin, CSJ
It’s not very often that a teenage girl in Tanzania is asked to reflect on her life and or journey of maturation into young adulthood. Children here are so accustomed to simply repeating what another adult, typically their teacher, instructs them on or the facts of their school subjects. It’s especially difficult for them to reflect on and then try to speak in a non-native language.
But the Sisters of this Tanzanian mission often gather the girls who live at St. Joseph Hostel in Songea to look back, look forward, and look deeply into their own desires, motivations, and obstacles to success. Of course, this often happens when a girl has a serious misadventure or fails to follow consistently the multitude of Hostel rules and expectations. But, just as often, reflection time is part of the prayer experiences led by the Sisters or when there are a few quiet moments to enter privately into conversation with one of the girls.
Recently, we gathered three girls who have done well during their time at St. Joseph Hostel. In January 2017, Zabibu will begin Form 4; Restuta will begin Form 2; and Vanessa (Zabibu’s younger sister) will begin Form 1. hey each reflected that St. Joseph Hostel holds up the expectation that each girl will study to the best of her ability. Vanessa, who studied pre-Form 1 English for several weeks at the Hostel remarked she is looking forward to studying hard. “I want to be human rights lawyer,” she said about her life’s dream.
“I have learned how to concentrate on my studies,” Zabibu offered as she explained the changes in herself since she first came to the Hostel as a student in our pre-Form 1 English classes—just as her sister has just now completed. “Other girls lose their concentration when they think about so many other things,” she commented. This ability to concentrate is not an easy skill to acquire since there are always a few girls who have not yet committed to using this essential habit of study. Our future surgeon, however, definitely has the ability to concentrate which the Sisters can verify after many hours of supervising study times.
Restuta is looking forward to transferring to a private school in town for the new school year. While she will study the same subjects as in the government school which she attended this past year, she looks forward to teachers who will consistently teach in English and to being in a physical environment more conducive to learning. “I enjoy Biology and want to be a medical doctor, though I don’t know what to specialize in just now,” she stated, “please give me time to think about that.”
Regardless of their length of time living at St. Joseph Hostel, they all agreed these five qualities make a girl a “Hostel girl”:
- Commitment to study hard every day
- Willingness to follow the rules
- Holding to one’s self-respect in dress and conduct
- Finding God in prayer
- Dreaming a dream for her future which matches her ability to achieve that dream
The Hostel has its share of chronic problems (big and small), such as e.g. petty thievery of school socks and girls talking after hours at bedtime. Yet, most girls thrive at the Hostel due to their own dedication to learning, their parents’ support, and the opportunities for development provided by the Sisters.
Not every girl succeeds despite all of our efforts, as we painfully recognize. But, most do achieve to their highest capacity. After ten years of caring for girls, we know there quite a few who are working very diligently on a bright career path—such as Vanessa, Restuta, and Zabibu are thinking about. We love when they come back to visit and tell us of their accomplishments. We whole heartedly believe that “our” girls will contribute greatly to the development of their people and country.
As my time here comes to a close, and the arduous journey back home to Ohio lies ahead of me, I ask you to pray along with me for these beautiful young women whom I have come to love. May they continue their studies, grow fully into the capable, confident women they are, and live the futures they envision.