What struck me most about being a guest and teacher at Hope School was the joy. When I first stepped off the bus I was nervous. Not only was I somewhat sleep deprived and traveling with a group of strangers, but also I was one of the two actual teachers in the group I was traveling with. What if I couldn’t connect with any of the kids, or they didn’t like me? What if my outgoing personality and loud laugh didn’t translate to Bemba? The owner of LPP had sent me on this trip. I had asked to go. I wanted to experience this opportunity and push myself outside my comfort zone. I didn’t want to fail.

But as soon as I encountered anyone from Hope school (founders, students, facility, management, cooking staff) they were all so very kind.

Meeting the students was overwhelming in a good way. While some of the people in my group served lunch, others, including myself, were encouraged to introduce ourselves to the children as they played outside during recess. The children were curious and knew our group was coming to Hope School. They went up to me, shook my hand, smiled warmly, and said hello. They wanted to touch my hair, take selfies, hold my hand, teach me games they played with their friends, and in turn have me teach them some too. We sang, and laughed and took more selfies. It was magic, the children at Hope School are magic.

Each day I also had a reading partner. We would read books of her choosing and for an hour, work on comprehension, pronunciation, and phonics. My reading partner was shy, but each day she opened up a little more revealing she had a large family, wanted to be nurse, and loved to draw. The last day she gave me letter. She told me she loved me like a glass of milk. It was one of the nicest compliments I have ever received.

In Chicago I work at a very affluent preschool. The children come from privilege. They don’t come to school hungry, or dirty, or tired from sleeping on a dirt floor. We have enough tables (at Hope School they share, moving large desks from room to room), there is an ample supply of clean water, we never run out of food and we have more than enough classroom supplies. It sounds cliché, but I take these things for granted, not because I am not grateful, but because I don’t really think about them. You will think about them at Hope. And it might make you sad for a minute, but it’s hard to be sad there, because Hope truly lives up to its name. It is a sanctuary run by some of the kindest human beings I have ever been privy to know. The teachers are smart, dedicated, loyal, loving, ambitious, and changing the lives of children each and every day. And these kids are joy, they are spirited, they are feisty, they are intelligent, and appreciative for their education.

            This trip has changed me. Made me better, filled in spaces of my heart and brain I didn’t know existed and has left me feeling full of hope long after the trip has ended.