A United Nations Children’s Day project in the late 1990s resulted in a wisdom exchange between students in Senegal and SouthLos Angeles.
The Los Angeles students had spent a year studying various ways to act on their convictions. After interviewing a farmer about the patience needed to grow food, they witnessed vast economic disparities on field trips to both lush farmland and urban food deserts. Their resulting hunger projects spanned multiple habit-of-heart units and helped them understand the complexity of hunger issues, both local and global. They had helped the farmer harvest pumpkins, which they used to make pies for a homeless hotel. They studied the healthy-heart benefits of various plants and compared their pea plants with the cassava grown by African students in their community gardens. They also learned about the causes of global hunger, such as per capita income, loss of grain silos during extreme weather, and apartheid restrictions that had limited the skills of new farmers who suddenly could own land.
The service learning projects throughout the year touched many lives. The students raised money for world hunger. They made lunches every day for a local feeding program serving the homeless population. Their service over the year also addressed environmental and other issues.
The following October, when the students were asked to speak onUnited Nations Day, each one shared a letter about their deep convictions, and how service had changed their own lives and the lives of others.
The partner NGO, Plan International, sent the letters along with a motorcyclist touring Senegal. They urged him to offer the convictions of the children as gifts to new wisdom exchange partners in a Senegalese village.
After studying the letters about how to act on convictions, theSenegalese school leaders and students felt inspired and energized to infuse purpose into their own learning. They divided
the campus into multiple schools. Each school would act based on a theme, conducting projects related to the conviction described in a particular student letter.
This project so transformed the life of the community that village leaders baptized the motorcyclist as a member of their tribe.