Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fun and Games at MEF

There is an amazing amount of talent on any campus, and Mindolo is no exception. We experienced the creativity of the students Friday afternoon and evening, in the first Inter-Class Festival organized by my Community Intervention class.

When we began the semester, I told my students that Community-Based Intervention Strategies was a practice class. We would certainly learn about community theory, but we would also learn how to bring about constructive change in the community. The students had three assignments besides the final exam. In small groups they were required to engage in a change effort in one of the compounds or shanty towns near Mindolo and report on what they accomplished and what they learned at the end of the semester. Individually they had to write a community analysis paper about the community where they were working (or the one they lived in.) Finally, as a class, they had to initiate a project that would improve the quality of life at MEF.

When they organized themselves for the class project, they decided to bring some new social activities to campus. They had complained last semester that there were seldom any activities on the weekends. They were learning about asset-based community development in the course, so we did an assessment of the community capital we might engage to create campus-wide social life. The students came up with four ideas--and decided to divide themselves into four groups and do all four: Saturday Movie Nights, a debate, sports competitions, and a talent show (Inter-Class Festival).

Despite some challenges, all these activities have happened, or are ongoing. The Saturday night movie sometimes becomes a games night (cards, chess, Scrabble, and board games) when the projector is not working. The sports competition was delayed by lack of equipment, but a request for a grant from the student activity fees has resulted in basketballs, ping-pong paddles and balls, darts, and soccer balls. The debate topic was "Is MEF a Christian Institution?" and created some interesting reflection on what it means to be a Christian, as well as a Christian institution. Finally, the Festival took place yesterday, at the beginning of a holiday weekend.

There were 4 categories of performance: sketches (skits), music, poetry, and dance. In each category, there were at least two or three acts. They included traditional dances from Zambia, a South African miner's dance done in red polka-dot rainboots, a men's dance group, a variety of kinds of poetry and music, and three outstanding skits. The media students presented a skit about Zambia's quest for independence. Education students presented one about AIDS, but my favorite was the social work students' comic tragedy about a marital drama. The husband is mean to his wife, and after verbally abusing her he goes to meet his girlfriend (an all-too-common occurrence here). The wife, desperate to make her husband happy, consults a witch doctor to get a potion to increase his desire for her (also an all-too-common occurrence here!). She goes home, prepares food, and awaits her husband's return. She waits and waits, and finally decides to take a nap. While she is napping, their teenage son comes home hungry. He sees the food set out for his father, into which the potion has been mixed, and he eats a bit, thinking that his father will never notice. The wife awakens when her husband returns, but he sees that someone ate part of the food and refuses it. He storms out, just as the teenage son comes in and sidles up to his mother, cooing, "I love you, Mom! Really!" as he begins to chase her around the kitchen...

The costumes were excellent, especially the traditional dancers and the witch doctor. I wish we could have videotaped it. We had prizes for the participants and cookies for all. We will do a class evaluation next week (what we liked, what we didn't like, and "bright ideas" for the next time we do something like this). So far, we have learned two lessons from our efforts. The first is how important communication is to the success of a project. That is a challenge here, with no email network among students. We post notices and use word-of-mouth, mostly. The other is that there is a lot that can be done with whatever resources already exist in a place, if you look around and expect to find them.

Once I figure out how to post pictures on the blog, I'll attach some from this event. I wonder what next semester's students will want to do in the Community-Based Intervention Strategies class?

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