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|Kayla Wieczorek with some of the children she coached in Tanzania.|
Kayla Wieczorek didn’t know what to expect when she landed at Kilimanjaro Airport in Arusha, Tanzania. She had watched a few videos on YouTube and Googled basic information about the country but ultimately wanted to develop her own first impression.
Kayla’s decision to travel abroad was sparked by her interest in observing sports education in countries outside of the U.S. This future sports teacher is currently a junior majoring in Physical Education at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She took a semester off school to volunteer for three months with Projects Abroad at their Sports Project.
She was assigned to coach a variety of sports such as volleyball, soccer, netball and baseball at two primary schools located just outside of Arusha.
“A typical day started at around 9:20 in the morning. We coached for about one and a half hours at one school then walked two minutes to the other school and did the same thing. In one week, I saw about 1,300 students in total. In each class there were 60 children.”
Initially Kayla found the language barrier to be a challenge but was able to adapt quickly. “The children don’t speak much English in government schools, but I purchased a book and my host family helped me learn. I’ve become very good at speak Kiswahili and the children taught me a lot of street language. It’s great because I didn’t only teach, but I also learned too, so it was a win-win situation.”
Within a few weeks, Kayla was well adjusted to her new surroundings. The students at the school and her host mother played a major role in helping her feel at home.
“My host mother is an awesome woman. She’s very young and hip and we got along really well. It’s cool to live with a host family instead of a hostel or hotel because you really get an inside look at how the family lives and how they cook their food. I learned how to cook local Tanzanian dishes and I also taught my host mother how to do some baking and make things like cinnamon rolls, pizza, and banana bread.”
Kayla returned to the states where she coaches and competes with the Alpine Ski team, but she plans to bring her family back to Tanzania to meet all 1,000 of her ‘kids’.
“I’ve done Kilimanjaro, gone on Safari and day trips, but my most memorable experience is my walks to and from school. The children made my day, every day. They couldn’t pronounce Kayla so they called me Kila. I miss hearing them calling me ‘Kila! Kila!’ and just wanting to chat, dance or braid my hair.”
Projects Abroad hopes great stories like these inspire others to help make a difference and by doing so, learn something themselves along the way.
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