Summer Journeys: Africa Heart and Soul

“I went to Africa with my family when I was nine-years old,” says Taylor Jacobs ’18, “and I fell in love with it. I always wanted to go back—it stays with you.”

            Warm and outgoing with a passion for service, Taylor loves working with children, and was eager to combine the places in her heart with the opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives.

            “I wanted an experience that was more actual work than travel,” Taylor says, “something as close to raw service as I could find.”

            She found what she was looking for in Tanzania. Taylor lived in a camp-style setting run by “Mama Simba.” Each day, she followed a dirt path to the local school, where she spent mornings teaching fifth-graders.

            “Fifth-grade there blends students who range in age from eight to 12, depending on when they were able to start school,” explains Taylor. “Their English language skills were also widely varied.”

            During their stay, Taylor and her colleagues completely renovated a classroom, stripping walls, applying spackle and paint, and repairing cracks in the flooring and sidewalks.

            “We did a lot of hardcore handy-work, which was rewarding, but also important: Even if the children can’t hold on to all the English, at least they have a new classroom to continue learning in.”

            They also met with local artists, visited an orphanage, learned African dance, and hiked near the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. It was, Taylor says, what she has come to call “cultural integration”—an opportunity for sharing and cultural exploration on both sides, for getting to know people and cultures.

            “I have always believed that the world is filled with wonderful people who have wonderful stories.  I got to live that in full in Tanzania.”

Taylor’s travel was made possible in part by a Poole Fellowship. [link] Established in memory of Robert Keyes Poole '50, Taft master from 1956 to 1962, Poole Fellowships are awarded each year to enable Taft students to engage in travel or in projects consistent with Mr. Poole's lifetime interest in wildlife and the environment.