Spark Signature Travel Experiences: The 2023 Educator Empowerment Initiative
Tobi Agurkis | community programs, education, healthcare, mental health, nutrition, partnership trip, technology literacy, travel, women's empowerment, zambia
For over fifteen years, Spark Ventures has brought travelers to our international and local partners in Zambia, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chicago to see our work in action. Spark’s Signature Travel Experiences are culturally empowering, mutually beneficial, and focused on lasting impact. At the end of July, Spark travelers visited Hope Community School in Zambia as part of an Educator Empowerment Initiative: EEI. Crafted with educators in mind, this experience focused on building collaborative relationships between US-based teachers, Hope teaching staff, and Hope students. While in Zambia, EEI travelers were immersed in the Hope classrooms, enhancing educational opportunities and creating bonds of friendship across the world.
This year’s Educator Empowerment Initiative focused on nutrition. Within the theme of “Feeling Good: Inside and Out,” sessions were developed with a focus on mental and physical health, diseases that result from poor nutrition, and the connection between emotions and the natural world. Thanks to the amazing EEI travelers who were guided by Head Teacher Ngoma and Secondary School Science Teacher Fallon, Hope students of all ages learned tools and techniques to promote a healthy lifestyle. Hope and Spark educators partnered to share impactful information in a range of ways and using traditional and technological activities. Thanks to the Hope Tech Phantoms and EEI travelers Mac Wolf, Wyatt Greenberg, and Ben Hellweg, students utilized their Chromebooks and projector equipment to engage more fully with their lessons.
Older students in 9th and 10th grade were given a safe space to discuss reproductive health and sexually transmitted diseases, spearheaded by Spark travelers Danielle Farr and Heather Duncan. Hope’s younger students learned with Spark travelers Agnes Jackson, Missy Greenberg, Liesl and Avery Hellweg, Constance Benrud, and definitely tired them out along the way! Programs were managed and supported across all age levels and educational disciplines with help from Michele Mahoney, Tenaya Rhinehardt, David Feldman, Kitsy Smith, Jennifer Kim and Ben Hellweg. It was incredible to see how some of these Spark travelers, who are not trained educators, enthusiastically jumped in to learn alongside the Hope students! Along with all their students, EEI educators laughed, danced, and embraced their new experiences in the Hope classroom.
Spark’s partnership with Hope School enables a diverse selection of programs and educational opportunities for students, entrepreneurs, and women in Twapia, Zambia. As part of the EEI experience, Spark travelers had many opportunities to engage in and with Hope’s various programming. EEI travelers participated in the Women of Worth, or WOW, monthly meeting, which is typically held on the Hope campus. However, this month’s meeting was so large that the group moved into the Assembly Hall to accommodate all the participants! There were even participants who joined virtually, including beloved Mama JJ. EEI travelers shared conversations and danced with the WOW women. It was amazing to see how the elderly women of the Hope community share mutual support, fellowship, and entrepreneurial activities together. The Hope Clinic offers healthcare services to the Hope community, including the members of WOW. The clinic was vital during the pandemic, during which it expanded its services and care. In pursuit of better health for their community, Hope has continued to grow the scope of their farm and gardens. Within just a few years, the Hope Farm has transformed wild African bush into successful and innovative farmland. EEI travelers met the farm’s workers, and spent time with them planting onions and cabbages. While deepening their relationships with Hope’s community members, EEI travelers learned how the farm is irrigated by water tanks and solar panels, which allows it to produce year-round. In addition, EEI travelers were able to visit a few of Hope’s other programs, including the Tailoring Initiative and Hope’s Onsite Shop.
Thanks to the enthusiastic spirit of Spark’s travelers, the third Educational Empowerment Initiative experience was a resounding success! Hope students bonded with and learned alongside Spark educators about nutrition, healthy habits, and mental wellness. Hope’s robust programs were strengthened, thanks to the collaborative partnership between Spark travelers and Hope staff, resulting in a better learning experience for Hope students. All the Spark travelers on our 2023 EEI signature experience found out quickly that it only takes one trip to Zambia to become part of the Hope family!