Weyburn student helps build school in Tanzania

A graduate of the Weyburn Comprehensive School, Brogan Regier, spent three weeks of her summer in a village in Tanzania as part of a team building a school and learning about their culture.

She is currently a first-year student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, and while visiting at home for Christmas, she shared photos and her story with students at St. Michael School and the Comp.

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Brogan ended up sharing not only about living in an African village for three weeks, but about time spent at a whale camp in the Bay of Fundy, and taking a double major of marine biology and biochemistry at Dalhousie.

As a former Girl Guides leader, she applied through the “Me to We” program through “We Day”, and she was selected for the team that went to Tanzania.

“We built a school in a village, and we got to do lots of activities, like making different foods and doing a ‘day in the life’ of a villager, where we ate what they ate, and worked like they did for a day,” Brogan explained.

 “My perspective definitely changed. The people there have way less than we have here. They don’t even have their basic needs, and they’re so happy with their lives,” she said. “That was really amazing for me to see.”

She noted they go to school there from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m., and said, “They’re so excited about going to school, because they want to learn as much as they can. It’s hard sometimes for me to want to go to school, and they’re so appreciative of everything they have.”

For one day, they lived in huts like the villagers, and were given the same amount of money that a villager might earn. With that money, they visited the local market for food, and they had to live on this for the day.

“It was very challenging,” said Brogan. “I couldn’t imagine doing that every day, to make a living.”

She noted they would make a cup of maize, and that’s what they’d have for the whole day, so we ate that for breakfast.”

For the school-building project, she explained that the school had about 300 students in it with one teacher, and the goal was to give the school another classroom so the number of students could be reduced to 150 each, “which is still pretty big”.

The group Brogan was with finished the walls for the school, and then a group came in after them and finished the project so that the school building can be used.

In the village, they also helped to fix some of the walls of huts of the residents, using “boma smearing”. Brogan explained this involved using dirt from field with cement mixture and cow dung, and using their hands they smeared this over the walls to seal any cracks that might have developed in them.

For those living in the village, they have to walk several kilometres to get water, and this water had chloride in it, which made them sick unless they took the time to boil it first.

This was also the only water they had available for taking a shower or washing clothes with, so it was enough for maybe a two-minute shower at the most, said Brogan.

The group of 14 also tried to herd the goats for the village, and it was very difficult for them to do — then there were two little boys from the village who did it without any help. “I was very impressed by that,” said Brogan.

The young people also took the time to play with the children from the school, even though the kids didn’t know any English, and the youths didn’t know Swahili. They did play schoolyard games that are the same as in Canada, and they learned some words, such as “jambo”, which means “hello”.

The Canadian youth also tried out some of the Maasi warrior training, learning how to use traditional weapons, like a conka, used to knock an animal out while hunting.

Noting that girls often were the ones to fetch the water and walk with it back to the village, she was asked by a student why this was.

“The boys are the ones who look after the animals and do the hunting, and the moms look after the cooking and cleaning. It was just what the girls job was, to get the water,” Brogan explained.

She also showed photos from a whale camp she attended in Canada, in the Bay of Fundy, such as of humpback whales swimming near their boat, and some that breached the water. While she was there, a new species of whale was discovered that had never been seen before.

Brogan pointed out this is partly why she wants to be a marine biologist, because about 90 per cent of the ocean remains undiscovered to this day. One area of oceanic life that interests her is to maintain the health of the coral reefs, noting that if the coral dies, all of sea life dies with it.

One of the sights they saw was Seal Island that was wholly populated by puffins. As they are a protected species, the number of people allowed on the island was restricted so as not to overwhelm the birds.

When a student voiced the opinion that school is boring, Brogan replied, “School is not boring, it’s so much fun.”

She explained that when she was in high school, the key was to be highly involved, and for her that included being on the SRC, in musicals and on the STARS Show Choir, as well as taking piano lessons and teaching piano.

She also pointed out to the students she developed good study habits in school and by following those at university, she has found the workload very manageable so far