Many months ago, a man in the village asked me to help him repair the well near our homes. The well was really more like a few pieces of loose aluminum over a spring and he wanted to build a proper covering of cement and stone. We decided to seek donations from those that use the well but people weren’t able to give a lot. He bought cement with what we had, including chipping in on his own for two bags, and was able to build a nice covering. He told me that we needed metal supports and I said I could probably fundraise.
Through package gifts and leftovers from other volunteers, I’ve acquired a number of pencils and pens, so instead of giving them away (I’ve tried very hard to dispel the white-handout stereotype) I sold them for very cheap to raise the money for the metal supports. I went through my entire supply, but I never saw the man again (it’s not uncommon for people to be around one day and then I find out the next that they have for an undetermined amount of time). I decided to donate that money to the school and met with the teachers and principal to discuss how the money would be used.
The first suggestion was to fund my going away party. There was a second and a third to the motion, although this meeting was far from following parliament procedure.
It’s customary for hosting agencies, like my school, to throw a farewell party for the departing volunteer. Usually it involves a big feast and a gift of some sorts, often a traditional Basotho blanket. It’s been a rough year at my school and it has faced a variety of problems, financial issues not being the least of them, so I am not really expecting a big party. The money is not there.
I was very touched when then these teachers wanted to use the money to give me a proper sendoff, but I could not, in good faith, have this money go towards my benefit. The money, although very little, was meant to be a gift to the school, not to me, yet that is how the teachers wanted to spend it.
To deny the money would be disrespectful to my teachers but to accept it would go against my Midwestern upbringing.
I thanked them for their kindness, then asked the agriculture teacher to voice the suggestion she gave me earlier. Under the Ministry of Education and Training’s syllabus, students are to do three projects in agriculture: gardening, animals and another of the school’s choice. Many schools have pigs or chickens, but mine can only afford rabbits and now the rabbits are starving to death. They need food to survive and the students will need the rabbits next year to fill their agriculture requirements.
After a bit discussion about the rabbits, the teachers were split between using the money for my farewell party or to buy food for the rabbits. The deciding vote came down to me.
I think the agriculture teacher is actually buying cabbage as I write these words.
When school closes, the rabbits will have full bellies and that will be enough of a celebration for me.