Marion-Walker teacher travels to Africa on mission to serve while bringing back global perspective to classroom
By Brit Milazzo
Public relations, BASD
Lauren Mrsa had an opportunity during the summer to give back to an African community that also gave her so much back in return. The second-grade teacher at Marion-Walker Elementary School traveled to South Africa and Zimbabwe with a group of other educators from across the country in June and July on a service trip with Teachers Go Global.
The initiative encourages teachers to volunteer in communities around the world to better understand cultural awareness through hands-on efforts that can then help bring a more global perspective into the classroom, which Mrsa said is a goal this school year with her 7- and 8-year-old students. After all, teaching often goes beyond just academics.
“I want to give them a renewed perspective of respecting people for their differences and beauty in differences,” Mrsa said. “I want to bring back an awareness of the world even though kids have a hard time conceptualizing the world. I want to be much more purposeful this year in exposing them to not only Africa, but other countries – that they’re different and amazing, and help them be more appreciative of what we have and really try to bring a more gracious attitude to what we have in life.”
This newfound perspective also coincides with the Fountas and Pinnell curriculum used at Bellefonte Area School District, which allows teachers the chance to expose students to more cultural material.
Mrsa learned about Teachers Go Global through online networking. She said she then reached out to a friend and founder of the program to see how she could get involved.
That led her on a three-week journey through Africa touring two countries and participating in efforts that positively impact the community.
The first two weeks were spent traveling throughout South Africa; the final week was spent in Zimbabwe – living in a tent and waking up to wildlife, such as giraffe – and volunteering with an animal conversancy called Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservation. There, she learned more about animals, such as elephants and rhinos; how to care for them; and environmental conservation that affects its surroundings. She also worked with Padding Africa to help make sanitary padding kits for girls without the resources.
During this time, Mrsa said she also spent time with local youth in activities such as going to the library and reading together.
“It really taught me to be grateful,” Mrsa said. “They were so kind. The energy was so positive and hopeful, and makes me so appreciative about what we have in this community, and I came back with a completely renewed perspective.”