How "To Do Good" in Guinea-Bissau

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One of essential parts during our, DNS2016 team's, African study travel was a so called "To Do Good" period, which is a part of Fighting with the Poor study subject. But then what is poor? How we can define it? Is poverty for me, Global North citizen, the same as poverty for the people we met here, in African continent? These questions give a lot of food for various considerations. Nevertheless, in this case, I assume poverty as a lack of choice, that many people do not even have a clue about and that significantly contributes to continuity of mental poverty. The reality that we, future teachers very much concerned about the perspectives of education, encountered in most of the countries we travelled was that a lot of individuals, starting from very early age, do not have access to education (not even mentioning disabled healthcare,  valueless and often insufficient nutrition and etc.), which restricts them from seeing beyond of what they are used to live with on the daily basis and, in a way, traps them in a mindset of learnt hopelessness - it is as it is and I can not do much about it. Due to diverse factors such as dark history of colonization, governmental impotence and corruption, nonexistence of infrastructure, shortage of financial support in public services and human recources as well, and many others, a vicious circle is being created and transferred from generation to generation, which makes the pathway of changing or improving something into trainings of ones patience and persistence, indeed.

 So, a bunch of believers in educational power gather together their own human potential in order to leave even a slightest footprint in people's, that we met in several African countries, memories and lifes, not forgetting the fact of a mark of Africa and everything that this word encompasses being carried inside our chests as well and, I guess, forever. We were here to step out of this observers' mode and actually DO something, to put our minds and hands into action even if it would be a tiny thing. In my opinion, the purpose of this period was to empower, teach and learn, improve and at the same time to create a fun and uplifting environment. To be honest, it was very encouraging to see how people were ready to do what was needed with minimal resources in order to see even the slightest positive change. And I think it is true, that you do not need to be wealthy money wise or to have big corporations or institutions behind your back with enormous money pots to actually do something good. Everything starts from the idea and willingness to cooperate shoulder to shoulder, right there on the field and before that during our saving-up period, to get things moving, because we have so much yet unknown resources inside ourselves, that, according to me, is the main driving force. And no doubt, that every opportunity created for locals to smile, every newly learnt letter from an alphabet you had drawn on the wall, every cheerful moment of togetherness you initiated, every small thing you tought even if it was a lesson of how to hold a brush while painting and many others - every tiny thing counts!

There were many of these things mentioned previously as our "To Do Good" period was held in several places and we had plenty of opportunities. First of all, we started with sports day actions in Senegal, Botou village and other bush village next to Tambacounda. Afterwards, there was a bigger action in Guinea Bissau, in DNS Cacheu Teachers Training College, which later on was followed by few days teaching practise in various villages in the country. Last but not least, we had a small 2 days building weekend in Quaranic school in collaboration with Jelena from NGO called  NATANGE, in Warang town, not very far from Dakar. In all the places we went, we left at least one pair of swings as our physical legitimacy, which could be a great symbol of childhood and that everybody has a right to it. During this period we were using different methods, such as involvement of locals in order for them to learn by doing; empowerment of oneself being capable of making his/her own decisions; using our own example as an illustration along the learning process; guidance in a learning process; freedom of choice in deciding what kind of contribution oneself is eager to accomplish; showing trust in them being capable; encouragement in trying unknown things; physical activation and interaction between each other; humane warmth for them to feel invited and more easily get things started.

by Simona Navadonskyte, student from DNS2016