|Dates:||September 15 – December 13|
*Airfare for international and in-country flights additional
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- Work at a Rhino Sanctuary and Witness the Efforts in Place to Protect Africa’s Sacred Animals
- Study Education by Living with Students at East Africa’s First Free All-Female Secondary School
- Whitewater Raft the Exhilarating Nile River
- Construct and Install Solar Power Systems into Rural Tanzanian Homes
- Volunteer in a Shelter for Disadvantaged Women and Children
- Shadow Nurses in a Maasai Health Clinic to Compare Traditional and Contemporary Medicine
- Research Pristine Island Habitats and Partner with the Department of Forestry in Zanzibar
- Search for the “Big Five” African Animals while on Safari in the Masai Mara National Park
The Africa Gap Program explores the majesty, cultures, and challenges of three East African nations: Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. We take advantage of our unparalleled access and gain a unique education on this fascinating expanse of Africa. Seeing the eager smiling faces in a Masai primary school while teaching English in an overcrowded classroom with limited school supplies, we feel the scarcity of education. Tromping through the equatorial rainforest with wildlife biologists, surveying habitat for endangered species, we witness the environmental struggle. Sitting down to interview leaders from an all woman’s community co-op set up to bring personal and financial independence, we see a solution. Building a soccer field hand in hand with local players, converting an old dirt lot into a community centerpiece, we feel the power of service. Witnessing a family of elephants trek through the savanna of the Masai Mara at sunrise, we experience one of life’s unforgettable moments. Never again will you look at education in quite the same way!
Orientation to the Africa Gap Program and Travel to Kampala
We begin our semester with a Gap orientation in San Francisco, California. After a welcoming BBQ with all ARCC Gap programs, we settle into our Africa group, getting to know one another and our instructors. Together we map out our itinerary and set both individual and group goals for the duration of the program. We introduce our curriculum and brainstorm ideas for our individual Capstone projects, all the while coming together as a traveling community.
Leaving San Francisco behind, we fly together to Entebbe, Uganda where we start our orientation to East African culture and customs. We explore Kampala, all the while learning about the rich cultural history and the complicated political and economic framework of East Africa, as well as the cultural norms and social etiquette of the region.
Rhino Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation
Traveling north from Kampala, we head to a rhino sanctuary where we will spend the next week. Due to poaching and fierce competition over natural resources for the last three decades, rhino have been extinct in the country of Uganda since 1982. We join biologists and rangers to help in the efforts to reintroduce and build a sustainable rhino population through their breeding program. We learn to track and monitor the animals day and night, help with animal rehabilitation efforts, and take part in community outreach educating local youth about conservation efforts. This opportunity not only provides us with an intimate look at the real environmental issues facing East Africa, but also allows us to be a part of the solutions.
Rural Community Farming & Microfinance
Our journey continues to the rural farming community of Luminyere, a stone’s-throw from picturesque Lake Victoria. Known for its fertile soil, this part of Uganda is an agricultural haven. With a growing number of the rural communities relying on subsistence agricultural, our partner Peter, the founder of a local farming cooperative, encourages traditional farming methods and techniques with regard to planting, harvesting and distribution of important seeds. By supporting local farmers through training and vocational studies, families are able to successfully feed themselves and build sustainable farms. Through our partner we go behind-the-scenes to help out and experience the strategic learning taking place. Peter introduces us to former street boys who have come to the farm seeking a better life, and are now the facilitators running the training program. Partnering with farmers we may plant fruit orchards, build bee boxes, construct water catchment systems, or participate in any assortment of agricultural practices. Living among community members who were once extremely impoverished, we learn and understand each step of the process of finding economic independence.
Nile River Rafting
Our Uganda adventure comes to a close on a high note as we travel to Jinja for an exhilarating whitewater raft on the mighty Nile River. After an exciting day on the river, we cross into Kenya and travel into the picturesque Great Rift Valley, where we stay in the quiet farming community of Kembu for the night.
Daraja Academy Educational Community Project
Only 55% of students who finish primary school in Kenya move on to secondary school. Women make up only a fraction of that small percentage. According to International Food Policy Research Institute, woman’s education is the single most contributing factor to decreasing levels of hunger and malnutrition. According to the International Aid Organization UNICEF, every year of schooling raises a women’s income by 10%. Set in the Shadow of Mt. Kenya, the Daraja Academy, East Africa’s first free all-female secondary school in Kenya, provides a stimulating and challenging educational experience aimed at readying the students for occupational interests. For a week we call Daraja home as we get to know and befriend the girls who come from varying areas throughout the country. Throughout the week, we break into small groups and develop projects aimed to help specific students and the educational institution as a whole.
Kongoni Primary School Teaching
Leaving Daraja behind we travel to the community of Naivasha, set in the heart of the Great Rift Valley. For the next seven days we are teachers at Kongoni Primary School instructing English, Math and Science. We have the opportunity to build lesson plans, conduct classroom management, and facilitate an exciting learning environment. We partner with local teachers and get a glimpse into both the struggles and viable solutions in the education system. Our time in Naivasha comes to a close with a celebratory all-school soccer tournament at Kongoni Primary School, followed by a walking safari through Green Lake Crater where we see giraffe, eland, gazelle, warthog, zebra and impala.
Safari in Masai Mara National Park
One cannot visit East Africa without a true safari. After traveling to the starting point, we wake up this morning and are beckoned to the famed plains of the ‘Mara.’ We trade our overland vehicles for smaller, more manageable 4×4 land cruisers and depart for an adventure of a lifetime. For the next two days we venture through Masai Mara National Park, one of the most documented game parks in the world. In search of the coveted “Big Five” – rhino, lion, elephant, water buffalo and leopard – we are sure to see our fair share of animals in this geographic masterpiece.
Delivering Solar Energy
Leaving the plains of the Masai Mara behind we make our way to the site of our next project which addresses the Environment and Conservation theme. The project is the brain-child of our local partners. An impactful initiative established to bring solar power to the homes of poor households in Kajiado County, we spend the next ten days learning about solar power systems and other renewable energy sources, building and installing solar power systems into homes, and undertaking an evaluation of the project. During our stay here we will learn about the impact of conventional fuels on the environment, while giving a life-changing resource to families in great need. Working alongside community members, we form close connections with those of Kajiado who are so grateful to receive our assistance.
Maasai Village Cultural Exchange
Next we journey to Amboseli National Park, tucked in the northern plains of Mt. Kilimanjaro. For centuries the indigenous Maasai people have followed a semi-nomadic pastoral lifestyle on this landscape. With the recent advent of global warming, the competition for water and habitat has become fierce and consequences dire. This past year, a number of lions who wandered onto native pasture land in search of water were killed by the Maasai defending their livestock. We join the Born Free Foundation and the Kenyan Wildlife Service who are making great efforts to understand and solve these issues. We have the chance to meet and interview local people in the surrounding area and see the day-to-day survival issues they face. We examine how communities, NGOs and government are working together to build harmony between traditional life and wildlife conservation. With an opportunity to help out in the remediation efforts, we work with community members and build a manyatta or Maasai cattle enclosure.
Student Planned Weekend
Leaving Kaijado behind, we cross over into Tanzania, the last country in our African journey, and make our way to Arusha, the small city base for our Student Planned Weekend. This weekend is totally planned by the students, with basic parameters put in place and a budget with which to work. We can’t wait to hear what the group will do!
Maasai Public Health Project
Our cultural exchange with the Maasai continues as we travel into Tanzania to the town of Meserani, a small indigenous Maasai community in the rural lands of Northern Tanzania. In cooperation with community leaders we learn about the struggle for health care in the region due to the lack of government support. In a country where one doctor cares for up to 25,000 people in any given rural area, Meserani is an exception to the rule. Funded by eco-tourism and donations, the Meserani clinic provides up-to-date health care to individuals who would normally have nothing. During our stay in Meserani, we are provided with an up-close view at the efforts being made to protect the local people from disease and sickness. We conduct important research interviewing community members and witness the positive effects of small non-profits making a difference.
Community Urbanization Project
Our next project in Tanzania is with a shelter for disadvantaged women and children. We spend a week learning the stories of these resilient women who have had to overcome great challenges before finding respite in this community. The shelter provides an opportunity for women to rebuild their lives, gain an education, and eventually return to their communities with the confidence and tools to support themselves. During our time here we assist in child-care, vocational classes, and general tasks around the house. We also have ample time to get to know the women and children outside of school hours and will no doubt leave with a far greater appreciation for all that we have.
Zanzibar Archipelago, Pemba Island Habitat Study and Snorkeling
Traveling on to the port capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, we board a ferry and motor out to the small island of Pemba. Home to a diverse island ecosystem that includes endangered species, coral reefs, mangrove forests, and a rising human population, Pemba is on the front lines of conservation issues. During our week-long field study, we investigate the issues, meet with researchers and do active coursework on specific keystone species, such as the endemic and endangered Flying Fox. Continuing on our field exercises we are able to educate the local population on the conservation efforts, and participate in discussions with community leaders.
After an engaging three months of learning, we relish the opportunity for a well-deserved celebration on the white sand beaches of Zanzibar. We have the opportunity to snorkel, while also relaxing in paradise.
With our semester coming to a close, we have the special opportunity to present our capstone projects to our community. Sharing our new perspectives with the group, there is no question our learning and living during these three months will prepare us for the rest of our lives. As we savor our last week together, we are excited to head home to share our newly gained knowledge and insights from our firsthand look at the global issues facing East Africa.
“ARCC has inspired me to be a better person. It is a cheesy response and I accept that, but after taking this trip and seeing the world in a whole new perspective, I’m seeing my life in a new perspective and it is making me want to be a better student, help in society, and a more well rounded and accommodating person.”— Tristan N., Portland, OR, ARCC Gap Student
“It is clear to us that you have given the program so much thought — the kids are so obviously both learning and enjoying themselves, meeting fantastic new people and acquiring great skills. I am so pleased that Franny has had this experience!”— Parent of Franny E., Northhampton, MA
“There is no doubt in our mind that Katie gained confidence in herself and expanded her world view as a result of her ARCC experience. She had never even been camping prior to her 3 months in Africa! For her to have the opportunity to observe and learn about such a different part of the world was tremendous and perhaps even more significant was her growth in her interpersonal relationships with others and her confidence in herself.”— Parent of Katie F., Gap Africa Student, Hillsborough, CA
“Dan had the experience of a lifetime. He has gained the ability to see the world in a completely different light and he has a new appreciation for the life we lead on a daily basis. It has changed him forever as a person and he seeks out opportunities where he can make a difference in people’s lives. Dan’s growth has all been positive.”— Parent of Dan M., Gap Africa Student, Wallingford, CT
“Katie had an extraordinary experience on her African adventure. It’s hard to say which was more of a factor — the incredible curriculum designed by ARCC’s involving community service, global issues, education and adventure, or the incredibly bonds she made with her traveling companions. It was a life-altering and maturing experience that she will never forget. We look forward to seeing what impact this trip has on her life in the future as well.”— Parent of Katie F., Gap Africa Student, Hillsborough, CA
“The semester provided Dan with the perfect transition from High School to adulthood, allowing him the opportunity to grow and mature while learning lessons that never can be truly taught in a classroom. Dan has lost any of the “attitude” you would attribute to a teenage boy. It has been a wonderful experience for both him and myself, to know that he has experienced something that will stay with him for life and how he looks at our world is forever changed. ”— Parent of Dan M., Gap Africa Student, Wallingford, CT
“Taking a gap year with ARCC and getting a chance to work hands-on with the community gave me a sense of hope and made me feel like I was actually doing something to help.”— Morgan Y., Gap Africa Student, Dedham, MA
“An eye-opening and inspiring retreat from our day to day lives.”— Dan M., Gap Africa Student, Wallingford, CT
“This Gap semester has been such an amazing experience. I have grown tremendously, learning from all of the unique situations that can only be experienced in Africa. My eyes are open to a part of the world that I could never have imagined. ”— Katie F., Gap Africa Student, Hillsborough, CA
“It was undeniably the most inspiring, humbling and invigorating 3 months of my life.”— Drew C., Gap Africa Student, Swampscott, MA
Group Journal Excerpts
Below you will find several Group Journal excerpts, written by ARCC students during their Gap Semester with ARCC:
A Day They Will Remember For Life
Wow! What a day our ARCC Africa Gap students had! The group is currently volunteering at the Rhino Fund Uganda. Yesterday, they participated in a medical mission to help Nandi, a wounded and pregnant Rhino. Nandi has several wounds that were severely infected and needed to be irrigated and cleaned. The wounds had come from…
An African Thanksgiving
After taking some time to journal and reflect on the many things that we are grateful for, we met back up in our outdoor “kitchen” to start the charcoal and plan out our dishes. Seeing as Stop and Shop was not right around the corner, and the closest we had to an oven was a…
Back from the Farm!
No time has been wasted during our second week here in Africa. Attending church Sunday morning was our first big adventure. After being escorted to the VIP section, we sat for almost 5 hours listening to prayers and songs, only occasionally understanding the few English words being said. Major celebrity sighting at church: the Nancy…
It’s a beautiful day here at Daraja – sunshine, gentle breeze and many smiling faces. We’ve just finished lunch, after an exciting morning where a herd of 121 camels wandered through the campus, and are having some free time before our 4th Swahili lessons starts at 3. Read more We’ve just finished our first week…
Food Security in Uganda
Yesterday, Peter gave us a tour of his farm—one that serves as a model for teaching the local communities how to support themselves and their families with food and money through agriculture. In a word, it was impressive. For one thing, everything there had multiple uses. While I might look at a plant and see…
Life at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Activities come next and here at Ziwa that may include teaching at Hakuna Matata Primary School as Morgan, Katie and Sophia did the other day. Imagine 45 kids from 2 to 9 years old in a two room school house about the size of a New York studio apartment. Teaching the alphabet, counting to 1…
Our Adventures in Kampala!
We started off the week by beginning our mural in Peter’s community center, and with all of our various artistic opinions, we were initially wary of the end result. Monday and Tuesday were spent hard at work, painting the mural and accidentally dyeing our bodies (especially Sedona, who still, a week later, looks as if…