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Local student takes life-changing Tanzania trip

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Posted at 6:01 AM, Dec 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-21 06:01:32-05

St. Ursula Academy student Amy Schloss wanted to do something meaningful and “extremely different” with her 2015 summer break — so she chose to travel to Tanzania to volunteer.

Schloss, a senior at the all-girls Catholic high school in East Walnut Hills, spent three weeks in the Tanzanian village of Tengeru teaching English to more than 30 sixth-grade students at Patandi Primary School, a coeducational public school. The students are required to pass an English exam before going to secondary school.

“Tanzania was the most foreign place I could think of, and I was looking for an opportunity to not only learn about the world but also learn about myself,” Schloss said.

Like most parents, Schloss’ mother and father were hesitant to let their daughter fly halfway across the world to Africa. After conducting much research on the program in Tanzania, speaking to others who have taken similar trips and preparing a PowerPoint presentation about the opportunity, Schloss persuaded her parents to allow her to embark on her summer adventure.

Schloss, of Hyde Park, worked with 14 other high-school students from across the United States and Australia through Global Leadership Adventures, an international volunteer program for teens. In addition to teaching English classes, the volunteers built desks and renovated classrooms in the school. On weekends, they planted a vegetable garden at an orphanage in need of fresh food. They also immersed themselves in the culture by learning basic Swahili, visiting a Maasai tribe, going on safari and learning about public-health issues in Africa.

“You can see poverty on TV or on your phone screen, but it’s a lot different than seeing it in the flesh, and I think that has influenced my life a lot,” Schloss said. “I was nervous about what the culture shock would be like, but it’s a really happy and welcoming culture, and I tried to bring that back to my own life here.”

The Tanzania trip continued Schloss’ interests in volunteering and working with children. She volunteers regularly during the school year tutoring local children and coordinating an after-school program at a local homeless shelter.

“I think Tanzania changed my life,” Schloss said. “My personality is different, and I appreciate what I have a lot more.”

See the school

Another young volunteer posted this video from Tengeru's Patandi Primary School. 

After her eye-opening experience in Tanzania, Schloss wanted to share her knowledge with her classmates at St. Ursula, particularly on the topic of girls in education. Many girls in Tanzania are often turned away from education after primary school, Schloss said.

Teacher Mary Porter encouraged Schloss to share. “She presented a little snippet of this topic in my advisory which I think showed her how positively the students responded to her,” Porter said.

“She got so fired up about it, so I said, ‘We definitely need to continue this in my health class.’”

As part of her final “passion project” for her Contemporary Issues in Women’s Health class, Schloss gave a presentation on challenges women face around the world in gaining an education. She also presented to a religion class.

Schloss has maintained contact with many of her fellow volunteers from the Tanzania trip, and the group has been brainstorming how they can continue to make a difference from home. Schloss and one friend from the trip have decided to sponsor a young girl they met while teaching in Tanzania to help her break her family’s cycle of poverty and to aid her in getting through secondary school.

“I am planning a T-shirt sale and also raising money on my own through babysitting,” Schloss said. “We’ll be sending the money over as a group to support her through her four years in secondary school.”

The Tanzania trip has had an impact on Schloss’ plans for the future, too. She plans to continue to pursue her interest in health and science next year in college, but she now hopes to study nursing with a global health focus. She also would like to participate in the Peace Corps after college.

“I’ll continue to have these passions in global outreach and health and how that is integrated,” Schloss said.