CULP trip 2012 – Tanzania – Cadet O’Connor

I’ve asked all of our CULP cadets to provide me with a synopsis of their CULP trips this year that I want to share with the GKB blog world.  The first article I got back was from Cadet Kevin O’Connor.  I had been seeing his facebook pictures of lions and zebras and wonderful African scenery, but I didn’t expect the story he provided.  An incredible narrative of what must have been a life changing experience.

Me atop of a Boabab tree I climbed overhanging an 80 ft cliff.

Most college students spend their summer hanging out with friends, making a little extra money, and relaxing after a hard school year. For some Army Cadets, there are opportunities to do some pretty incredible things. Some go to Airborne School, or Air Assault School, but I had the opportunity to go on CULP deployment. CULP (That’s Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency), is a program for Army Cadets to travel to a country to participate in a cultural exchange. This past summer I had the amazing privilege of traveling with 9 other ROTC Cadets and a Cadre member to the country of Tanzania to offer humanitarian aid to the local community.

We were placed at various schools, women’s empowerment groups, prison schools, and even working with kids that have HIV/AIDS.  Most of us worked at helping teachers at the local schools develop sustainable lesson plans, and show them some different perspectives on how to educate children. I was placed at a nursery school for children 3 to 7 years old. Although English is in their curriculum, the children understand very little. This allowed me to pick up a lot of the language. We were also able to take trips to Ngorongoro Crater for a wildlife safari, and Zanzibar for some incredible tours, both once in a lifetime opportunities. Tanzania is an incredibly beautiful country, and I am so humbled by the people who live there. I am so lucky just being an American, and I truly appreciate everything I have now.  My most memorable experience is probably the most poignant.  One of the brightest young children at the school I gave a lot of extra teaching.  I explained to him how important for his success learning his math and English is.  He stopped coming to school for two days.  I talked to a local family near our compound to find where this child lived.  I went to his home to speak with his parents.  The bright child with a promising future could not afford to go to school.  For the equivalent of around 50 dollars, I could guarantee his tuition for another year.  I told the parents to send him to school in the morning.  I paid for a year of his tuition.  At the end of my volunteer placement, the children gave me a farewell.  They lined up, and said either “goodbye from your brother” or “goodbye from your sister” depending on whether they were a boy or girl. Then came the young bright student. He walks up to me, and says “Goodbye from your student, Goodbye from your son”.  I have never felt so humbled.  Over all, this trip was entirely sobering and perspective changing.  I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity.  If given the chance I would do it again in a heartbeat and I strongly urge any incoming MSI and MSII to look into this great opportunity.

The Children of Eliroi Nursery School

What a great story.   I’m looking forward to getting similar reports from our other CULP trippers.  You can also read about Cadet Flynn’s adventurer in Costa Rica on the Army Strong Stories blog site.

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