Global Youth Service Day ( shone bright and warm in Nzovwe, Tanzania, and on April 18 local students GYSD showed up at the Nzovwe Market, brooms and refuse containers at the ready. The RENEW Team together with teacher Mwasenga and Mwampamba in Nzonda Haki Secondary School guided the students in planning and implementing their very first-community service project as a way of celebrating GYSD. The Nzovwe Market is the town’s major trade center, where locals purchase food and goods for their households.
The students had started the project with a vision for a beautiful, and clean, marketplace that would instill a sense of pride in them. However, they recognized that their first challenge would be overcoming the perceptions of others in the community who believed that only the town’s street cleaners should be accountable for keeping the market clean. In Tanzania, street cleaners had a reputation for being uneducated and of lower social status than entrepreneurs in the local market, or, for that matter, educated students. By taking on the market cleanup project, the students challenged this notion, and the community reacted.
The students cleaned from 10am to 1:30pm, collecting trash and refuse, slowly transforming the marketplace. First, one local entrepreneur gave more cleaning tools to the students so that they did not run out, offering gentle encouragement. Another entrepreneur then used the students as an example, beginning a discussion with the shop owners on the importance of keeping the marketplace clean.
In the end, the project was a success. The students demonstrated both leadership and a love for their community with the market cleanup. The best part? Word got around to other schools, and students and teachers began making requests for more student-led community service projects. Said one teacher who had learned about the project, “I was very moved with the commitment of students to want to do more for their community, including their creation of a RENEW club, which they use to organize themselves.” The positive energy from empowered students with a vision and a plan had spread within the community, bringing its own form of change.
Changing perceptions is often one of the biggest challenges, and rewards, of community service. By being aware of both the physical and emotional impact their project would have on the community, the students were successful. Now, the students are planning a new project. I don’t know what their next project will be, but with their leadership and teamwork, they will go far.