From Eighth-Grade teacher, Vanya Yoors:

As part of the most recent block [Fall 2020], students have learned and heard about a tiny aspect of the great continent of Africa.

There is one specific highlight that I would love to share with you.

We had a special presentation via Zoom by a guest speaker from Nigeria. Dr. Ikechukwu (Anthony) Kanu is a Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Tansian University and President of the Association For The Promotion of African Studies. He spoke with the students about the geography of Nigeria and gave some beautiful anecdotes about Traditional African Religions.

One excerpt from the presentation, which touched on environmental/spiritual considerations is:

“For the African, these geographical realities are not just inanimate realities. They go beyond this, and they become the abode of the spirits, they become part of the human world. And that is why if a person kills a python, the person buries the python as he will bury one person. They are seen as a part of the human world, and that is why each time the African speaks of the things around him, he does not just speak of them in a derogatory sense, he speaks of them as a part of himself. And this helps him in his relationship with the world around him, because if the world, the earth, the land, the trees, the animals are a part of him, he treats them with respect, knowing fully well that whatever negatively he does to the animal world, it has a way of coming back to him. If he destroys the animal world, if he destroys the land, the earth, if he destroys the sea, the consequences come back to him because he is destroying a part of himself.

So in the African context, there is a very strong relationship between the person and the world. A person does not exist outside of his world and his world does not exist outside of him. The person and the world are one.”

As well as this ‘visit’ I also showed the students a BBC film on the Congo River. As well as the incredible beauty of the river, its natural surroundings, and the diversity of human cultures, the film included details of the challenges brought by the brutal colonial era and the consequent challenges of war and poverty. One question that came up was “how can we help?”

As a tiny contribution to as answer, I spoke of how what we do in our own lives, and how we treat the people around us was of the most importance. I followed this up with a holiday gift card for each student, which is also addressed to their families. I do hope that you have seen this. If not please ask your child about it.

The card is a gift card to Kiva, a microfinance nonprofit which I also spoke to them about.

With the code attached, each student (with your assistance) may create an account and lent their funds to a borrower of their choice. After the funds have been paid back (6 months to 18 months) these can be re-loaned or withdrawn and kept. Should you or your child choose not to participate, the funds will turn into a donation after a year. I have heard from two students that they have already set up and allocated their gifts. May this be another tiny window into a vast world as well as an opportunity to interact with it and participate in a different way.

With my warmest wishes for your winter holidays and the New Year.

Click Here to Learn More about “Kiva — Make a Loan, Change a Life”