Laying the groundwork
The ground in certain spots around the village of Mkyashi, Tanzania, is so hard that to move the dirt, it first has to be cracked with pick axes. So, it seems, do stereotypes about the work college students might do on a field study in a developing community like Mkyashi. Bricks for schoolhouses. Medicine for the sick. Leaving a place looking better than it did two weeks ago. It’s all done with good intention, but for Chong, community development involves more than getting your pants filthy.
“We take students who have a basic understanding of holistic development and let them see it up close,” he says. “That means whatever we help facilitate in a community, we want the people who live there to grow it and sustain it. What we offer is solidarity, empowerment, and ideas for business models. The truth is, they don’t need our skills.”
With the exception of a little turn into Canada a few years ago, Ali Dukstein ’20 had never ventured outside the U.S. Then she too strode off the plane in Africa, eyes wide.
Three classes with Chong had convinced the political science major to go see for herself what it means to help develop a country.
Or in her words, “How do I know I’m passionate about something if I don’t experience it for myself?”
So Dukstein went. She learned to swing a machete and the intricacies of mixing compost. Surface lessons, you could say. And then she learned something deeper on the back end of the two-week field study. “I learned that listening is a key to sustainability.”