Born to Learn represents my first encounter with the African continent. 18-year-old me, a university student convinced she wanted to explore and volunteer, ended up in Born to Learn during the summer program. I will always remember Mama Sam’s first speech to all of us, forty volunteers: “When you leave, you will have the feeling you have received so much more than you could give.” I have been volunteering with Born to Learn for the past four years, and it has been the case every single time.
My last journey in Born to Learn represents a different experience. Rather than going for one month as a volunteer, I interned for three months as part of my Master’s studies (African Studies). During this period, I also had to perform field research on the perceptions of people with albinism in Tanzania, inspired by my volunteering in 2018 in Born to Learn’s a new project: A center in Kabanga (region of Kigoma). As a researcher, I got to connect with the teachers in the school on a more personal level, as most of them represent vital participants for my thesis. I was impressed by their shared experiences, and they enlightened me with new perspectives on how to view my topic. Furthermore, I admire Born to Learn’s approach to implementing education on a more academic level, as I have been studying the impact of different interventions in Africa through my studies. Personally, I understood that their impact is directed towards improving all the necessary needs of the children to provide inclusive education, focusing on food, the families, the communities, women, and much more. All in all, they are able to intervene in such a way without disrupting the normal functioning of the community that surrounds the school, which I believe is essential in any type of aid interventions.
From an academic and research point of view, Born to Learn has provided my thesis with a valuable and fascinating case-study to pursue my studies. Also, as I was living with other volunteers/coordinators, which gave me the opportunity to interview them. For me, the people you meet are like family, coming from all around the world with different backgrounds, you always find common ground: the willingness to help make a change in the future. No matter the age difference, the people you meet, will help you grow and guide you through the process, in the good, and also the moments of uncertainty. Even though my main goal was to perform field research and grow as an academic, I feel like Born to Learn has been a place where I was allowed and pushed to flourish every day as a human being. I have been able to gain strength through adversity, and I have always had the support of the people around me, who like me, are passionate about the work that is being done there. The culmination of this passion is Samantha, who has not only guided me professionally through this experience but has been a role model for me, showing me, in her daily experiences, how challenging it is to do the work she does. In fact, I believe her strength and moral and ethical values reflect what she has built for over ten years: Born to Learn. And while, as she once said, “you will have the feeling you have received so much more than you could give,” she also shows you how “every grain of sand counts on a beach.”
Rebecca Alcolea Krauss