What does it mean to be a global citizen? At Fairfield, definitions of global citizenship abound as the term has ignited passion, engagement, intellectual inquiry, and collaboration across the University’s disciplines and constituencies. As the selected area of focus for 2010-11 and beyond, global citizenship is moving many towards reflection and action, both on and off campus.
This is the first in a series of Global Citizenship Spotlights intended to illuminate what it means to be a global citizen from the perspective of Fairfield students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are living and learning about it all, here at home and around the world.
Fairfield University in Tanzania
For Christine Klecker ’10, global citizenship means exchanging thoughts and dreams with the youth of Tanzania, like Faustine, shown here. A student in the food and beverage program at Machui Technical College, Faustine carefully pours hot water over the hands of all diners at the college as they enter and exit the dining room.
“Faustine and other students at Machui will speak to us kindly and wait patiently as we dry our hands before moving toward our meals,” says Klecker. “The giant smile across his face is typical of students at this school. With most Tanzanians living on less than $1 a day, these students are happy to have the opportunity to learn and serve as part of their curriculum.”
According to Christopher Johnson, Director of International Programs, Faustine’s first salaried job after he graduates the program will likely be the first anyone in his family has ever had. The normal ratio of salaried workers to dependents is 1:15.
Klecker, who graduated Fairfield with a major in mechanical engineering and two minors in math and physics, is discovering Tanzanian culture and mindset side by side with Pamela Perrimon ’12, a double major in anthropology and theatre who is studying abroad for her spring semester. The Fairfield University Study Abroad Program in Tanzania is offered twice a year, and for the first time this spring. The inaugural semester abroad attracted 4 Fairfield students:
- Christina Klecker ’10, Major: Mechanical Engineering
- Pamela Perrimon ’12, Majors: Visual & Performing Arts/Theatre, Sociology and Anthropology
- Jasmine Fernandez ’12, Major: Politics
- Halimat Somotan ’12, Major: Visual & Performing Arts/Theatre
Both Klecker and Perrimon are heart-struck by the friendliness and gentleness of the people who, according to Perrimon, mean it when they say “Karibu” (welcome).
“I’m constantly reflecting on the openness of the culture,” says Perrimon. “It really goes a long way to make me feel like a part of society here, and a part of Tanzania.”
As Klecker puts it, “Greetings in Tanzania can last more than ten minutes! People really want to hear how your morning was and how your family is doing. They care what your day has been like and how you arrived at this very moment. It’s such a major change from ‘Hey, what’s up?’ as you blow past someone on the sidewalk in Connecticut. It has taught me to have greater concern for everyone I encounter.”
Perrimon was drawn to Fairfield’s Tanzanian program because she wanted to experience the side of Africa that isn’t portrayed in the news – the side that’s not about “AIDS or war or general unhappiness.” In addition, the allure of Tanzanian culture and life appealed to her because it was so completely different than Fairfield’s.
Some unexpected delights for Perrimon so far have been:
- Petting giant turtles in Zanzibar
- Attending a wedding with her host mother, Nashi, that was a blend of western traditions but also inherently different, with dancing, singing, gifting, and “general happiness”
- Cooking Chapati and other delectable new foods with her host sister, Rehema
- The daily highlight of taking a dalla-dalla, a small bus that serves as public transportation (“There’s a joke here that asks ‘How many people fit into a dalla-dalla?’ and the answer is ‘one more.’ Its true. I sometimes have to hang half out the door while the dalla-dalla heads down its route,” says Perrimon.)
For Klecker, “The more I learn about Tanzania, the more I fall in love with it. There is so much to do and see within this large country. The tourist attractions alone make Tanzania a worthwhile visit – Serengeti National park, Ngorongoro Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro, Olduvai Gorge (the archeological site of the first human footprints), and Victoria Falls in nearby Zimbabwe. But these famous sites don’t begin to touch upon the incredible people. Tanzanians are known to be some of the kindest and friendliest people in the world.”
The Value of Education
Klecker was drawn to Manchui, Zanzibar, Tanzania by a project that integrates her engineering degree and her passion for service. She is there to work with locals to develop a renewable, sustainable energy source for a pump that will provide fresh water to the townspeople from a newly-built well. The well was designed and implemented by the Rotary Clubs of Zanzibar and Fairfield, Connecticut to provide water for the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood and other villagers of Machui, but it is located several kilometers downhill from the village.
“When I first heard about the wonderful accomplishments of these Sisters and their daily struggle with water,” Klecker says, “I knew I wanted to get involved.”
Machui Technical College teaches fundamentals in all subjects, as well as specialized instruction and hands-on applications in fields such as horticulture, culinary arts, or hotel services. Many students enrolled in the College have suffered extreme difficulties growing up such as poverty, being orphaned due to HIV/AIDS, and abandonment due to drug addictions. According to Klecker, the Sisters allow anyone a second chance at education – which means a second chance at life in Tanzania – with the only requirements being perseverance and a willingness to learn.
Living, working, and teaching among Tanzanians have been a world-affirming experience for Klecker, as well as a journey of self-awareness. Klecker has rediscovered the value of her own education while teaching English in the evenings to locals who have never gone to secondary school and only speak Swahili fluently. As she explains:
“Before coming to Tanzania, I took my education for granted. Growing up, I always saw classes as a chore, and not anywhere I would choose to be. Now I see how prized an education truly is. I have never seen students more eager to learn than here in Tanzania. They work diligently and strive to be at the top of their class. They understand that their only way out of a difficult impoverished lifestyle is to learn as much as possible. Most classrooms are so crowded with students that some are forced to stand outside the classroom and take notes while listening through the window.
“The Tanzanians I have met so far have given me a reason to reflect upon everything I have accomplished in my own life. As an educated woman in Tanzania, I am expected to have all the answers. I find myself in the awkward position of teaching people my own age about any variety of subjects – answering their questions, showing them how the world works. When did I become qualified to teach others about the world that I feel I hardly know at all myself?
Global Citizenship: Up Close & Personal
Having lived a life of “incredible privilege,” Klecker is also learning to adapt to daily struggles that arise from frequent electricity outages and plumbing troubles. For days she may have nothing more than “bucket showers” because the water stops running through the pipes. When the power goes out unexpectedly now, she simply turns to handy candles nearby and proceeds with the normal activities of the day, following the Tanzanians’ lead.
“Eastern Africa is a world away from Fairfield, Connecticut,” Klecker reflects, “but I hope to make the best of it, and to return with a renewed sense of global citizenship and gratitude.”
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