‘Your liberation is bound up with mine’: Sierra Academy teacher heads to Kenya to learn, offer support
Marika Beck will soon be on a plane heading to Kenya.
The Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning English teacher said she was urged to apply to a program to help teach female students about their reproductive health, to learn about Kenyan culture and its national ethos, and to possibly develop a connection between Kenyan students and her students back home.
“Why not?” she asked rhetorically, when considering the possibility. “Why not try?”
After applying in May and being accepted in June, Beck said she will go to Nairobi, Kenya, from Sunday to Feb. 14 with 23 other female teachers, visiting Nairobi communities; facilitating professional development workshops; and providing tuition assistance, school supplies and hygiene products to support female attendance in schools.
“We are trying to (collectively) bring at least 1,000 menstrual cups for girls who miss school or drop out entirely because they lack period products,” said Beck.
Beck, who has raised over $4,000 via GoFundMe and hundreds of dollars from her students’ fundraising efforts to support her travels, is going to Nairobi with the educators exchange program Ustahimilivu Dadas. (In Swahili, “Ustahimilivu” means resilience and “dada” means sister.) The program focuses on giving teachers and students necessary resources to establish an effective learning environment otherwise lacking in impoverished areas, said Beck, who was able to purchase 200 pairs of underwear, over 100 menstrual cups, and school supplies for Kenyan students.
A proper education, said Beck, is one of the most effective ways to improve a women’s prospects. It’s often the difference between health and disease, a long life and early death.
“Education is their only option for free choice in their life,” she said.
Many female students drop out of school because they don’t know how, or don’t have the tools, to manage their period, said Beck, adding that if they drop out of school, they won’t be able to break a cycle of poverty.
Beck believes that by engaging in this program she is benefiting both those around her as well as her own development as an educator and an individual. She quoted Australian indigenous activist Lilla Watson: “‘If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.’”
The English teacher said after the trip she hopes to establish a connection between Kenyan students and Sierra Academy students via conference calls or by hosting Kenyan teachers in Nevada City.
Ultimately, that desire of hers is embedded in her attempts to humanize others and correct the often exclusively negative narratives that orbit African countries.
“Africa isn’t all starving children and despair,” she said.
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4219.
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