Day 3


We woke up a little later than we did the day before (around 7:30). We got ready and went down to the continental breakfast. After breakfast we hit the road again. We went back to the Clinton Library, this time with my battery fully charged. I got to take pictures of everything I missed out on the day before. We also got to see a 12 minute film about how Clinton got his start in politics and a bit about his presidency. I don’t know what it was about the film but I got really emotional while watching it. He was a really great president, despite his personal issues, and I feel like we went so far backwards after he left office. But anyway.

After we left the Clinton Library, we went to the gift shop, which was only about a minute away. I expected it to be as impressive as the library, but I was really disappointed by it. It was full of overpriced knickknacks. It also kind of disgusted me after going to a place that I found so inspiring and impressive. It reminded me that money is king and most people are concerned only with making a profit. But that’s just me.

After that, we hit the road on our way to Mississippi (about a 2.5 hour drive). We did a quick pit stop at the Central High gift shop for people who didn’t have a chance to get anything the day before.

While on the road we watched “The Ugly Truth,” with Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigel. I own the movie and have seen it a ton of times but I watched it again anyway. We stopped for lunch at Gene’s Barbecue, then continued to our destination.

We were spending the night at the Shack Up Inn. It’s literally a bunch of shacks with a bunch of musical and historical paraphernalia. For most people, a step down from The Comfort Inn (but I’ll give it to them that it was all very original). I got really, lucky, though. Kim, Kate, and myself were assigned to Bills House. Literally a house  larger than the house I live in. I got even luckier when I got the nicest bedroom in the house. Where most people had a small shack with a couple double beds, our house had an upstairs, a full kitchen, living room, master bedroom (my room), downstairs bedroom with attached bathroom, and upstairs bedroom. There was also a working Sauna and Hot tub in our house. There were so many cool little things we’d never have a chance to see all of them, but I got pictures of some.

After we got our housing assignments, we went to Ground Zero Blues Club (Morgan Freeman’s club). I got a fried green tomato sandwich (delicious). There was live music, and some of the girls (including VP Hobin and her husband, Jack), danced. It was a lot of fun. We stayed until about 10pm, then headed back to the Shack Up Inn.

Most people went to sleep right away, but Kim, Kate and I stayed up until about 12:30 and talked and got to know each other better. It was really nice. When we finally did got to sleep, my bed was just as nice as it was the night before. I slept very well.



Day 2


We woke up pretty early to go on a walk around the ranch before we had to leave. We headed out on the walk at 6:30 and planned to leave the ranch at 7:30. It was pitch black when we started out on the walk, but it got lighter as we went along. At the ranch, they have this thing called the Global Community. There are a bunch of different types of housing to show how poor people live in different parts of the world.

It doesn’t really surprise me, especially not anymore, that people live in such poor conditions, but I think it surprised a lot of the other girls. Some places were an Urban Slum, which is supposed to be indicative of anywhere in the world, Appalachia, and Zambia. Zambia was by far my favorite, but I think that might be because Africa stole my heart last year. Also, my absolute favorite picture I’ve ever taken was of the Zambia housing.

After we walked that, it was already later than 7:30, so we stayed longer than we planned. We got to see some of the animals on the ranch, which include, but are not limited to, Camels, Llamas, Turkey, and Water Buffalo (and of course, Heifers).

When we left we went to get breakfast at Sonic. That was definitely an experience because there are 25 of us on a huge bus, something Sonic is not really equipped to deal with, but they did a great job anyway.

After Sonic, we went to Heifer International Headquarters. They have a green facility and we went on a tour of the building and learned more about that. Very interesting. It kind of inspires me to be even more environmentally conscious than I am now. I have some great pictures from there.

After Heifer International, we went to Bill Clinton’s Presidential Library (which, believe it or not, doesn’t have books.) We had dinner in the restaurant, called “42.” I got a Veggie wrap and I have to say it was delicious. Everyone seemed to really enjoy their meals, too.

After lunch we went up to the actual library and got a tour. I have a lot of great pictures from there too (although we weren’t allowed to take pictures with flash so some of them aren’t the highest quality, but they’re better than nothing. My camera battery died right before we got to an exact replica of the Oval Office, so I was really bummed out about that, but we decided to go back the next day, because we were so pressed for time, so I had another opportunity.

After the library, we went to Little Rock Central High (I’m sure you all know about the Little Rock Nine). That was really emotional. We got to meet Minne Jean Brown’s daughter, Spirit. She was great. She talked to us for a while and then showed a short film about the battle for integration. That was honestly awful. I know that it was bad but it absolutely disgusts me to see how ignorant, closed minded, and ugly people can be. We walked the grounds of the high school, which is the most beautiful high school I’ve ever seen. It was actually kind of peaceful in a weird way. There are benches now surrounding a gazing pool with the names of all of the Little Rock Nine.

After that, we went to the Comfort Inn, where we were staying that night. We checked into our rooms and I took a verrrry long shower (because my shower the night before was broken). That was great. We had a little while to rest before we went down to hear Team Arkansas give their presentations on the state. (We’ll be doing that periodically through the trip.)

After the presentations we left for dinner at the Flying Fish. It was basically a seafood place (incase you didn’t gather that from the name). I’m a vegetarian, so I’ve been having a tough time finding things to eat, especially because so much of the cuisine here is barbecue and fish, but I ordered grilled squash and zucchini and a side of green beans. They were all very delicious, and for desert I had a slice of Key Lime Pie (more like a slice of heaven. Yeah, it really was that good). The room where Sam, Kelly (another Kelly), Jess, and I ate was COVERED from head to toe in Singing Billy Bass Fish. It was crazy.

We went back to the hotel after dinner, and we had our first debriefing of the trip, where we talked about what we liked, what we didn’t like, how we felt, what our impressions were, etc. By the time we finished doing that, it was pretty late and we were exhausted. It was an incredibly long day.

My bed was like sleeping on a cloud compared to my bed the night before, and I had no trouble at all falling asleep.



(P.S. I’m posting all these while on the bus and the Wi Fi is super slow so I’ll post some pictures when we’re at a hotel with faster Wi Fi)


Day 1


We left Bay Path around 8am. We had a bus take us to Bradley International, where we caught our first flight to Baltimore. We had about a 2-hour lay over before our next flight, which took us to Little Rock, Arkansas.

Nothing terribly exciting happened during the flights. On our first flight, though, we had one of the most entertaining stewardesses I’ve ever had. She did a bunch of different accents and sang little songs she made up over the intercom. She also had a race between a package of peanuts and pretzels during take off. She put them both at the front of the plane and narrated like it was a horse race. The pretzels won, by the way.

After we all collected our checked luggage, we headed out to our bus. It’s a huge bus. There are 5 flat screen TVs and a bathroom. There are plenty of seats for everyone to have their own, but some people are sitting together.

We drove for a long time to Heifer Ranch, where we were to spend our first night. When we got there, it was pitch black. It didn’t seem like anyone was there. A car followed us in, and as it happened, it was the people who were in charge of the ranch, as of that day. They were just arriving themselves and had no idea we were coming. We got a little nervous that we wouldn’t have a place to stay because they didn’t seem to know anything about our group, but it worked out. It was just a minor miscommunication.

The ranch was interesting. We slept in rooms with bunk beds. Some rooms had 8 girls. My room had 6. It was Shakira, Nita, Sam, Jen, Chelsey, and myself. There was trash, crumbs, what I can only assume was pubic hair (gross, I know), and white stains on my blankets. Everyone else’s beds seemed to be okay, although my roommate the next night told me she found a dirty sock in her bed, too.  Our shower was broken too.

We left the ranch and went to get some dinner. All the places we wanted to go to were closed, but VP Hobin managed to get a place called Bonanza’s to stay open late just for us. They had really good food and everyone was really friendly (most people down south seem to be really friendly).

When we finished dinner we all headed back to the ranch pretty exhausted from a day of travel. When we got there, the man who had just taken over the ranch explained a little bit of what Heifer International is all about. It was interesting but we were really tired and he was more than a little bit rude at times (contradictory to what I just said in the previous paragraph, but hey, there’s always an exception). When he finally stopped talking, we all went up to our respective rooms to clean up and go to bed.



Our journey down south begins. Right now we’re on our way to the airport where we will fly to Baltimore and then take a connecting flight to Little Rock. Pictured is VP Hobin talking to us on the bus.

The Premiere of our African Documentary: Anna Goes to School in Africa, was yesterday. It was a tremendous success. I was very please with the crowd that came out to support the project.

The film runs for 31 minutes and is available as a gift with a donation of $20 or more.

If you would like to make a donation and receive a copy of the film (which turned out beautifully), or would simply like more information about the project, please send me an email at

And remember, 100% of the donations go DIRECTLY to the Sajuka School.

Our project has been selected as one of the Top Ten in the Nation for promoting Global Citizen Diplomacy. We are traveling to Washington D.C. in mid-November for the Summit. There, we will receive and award and recognition on a National Level. More about that as it happens.


And in other news, for one week in the beginning of January, this blog will be dedicated to chronicling a trip through the Upper South. Myself, several Bay Path students, Dr. Surbrug (history professor), and Vice President Caron Hobin, are traveling to historical sites in the Upper Southern region of the U.S. I’m super excited about it. Just a few of our stops include: Graceland, the site at which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and The Grand Ol’ Opry.

And sorry I’ve been away so long… again. You can always check out my MAIN BLOG for updates that I don’t get a chance to post here. I post there all the time.

Hello everyone!

My last post was months ago, but I haven’t stopped working on the project.

On the contrary, we’ve all been very busy!

I’d like to take this opportunity to give you some updates.

  1. – The Agawam Advertiser published an article about the trip, going in to more detail about what was done while we were there and what we hope to accomplish in the future. I’ve been looking for a link on the internet, but it’s just a small town paper and I don’t believe they post their articles online (at least not yet). I’m still looking in to it, but the article was very nice. I might scan a copy of it onto the computer and post it that way.
  2. – With a donation of $500, the school was able to produce over 100 “crafts” from their skills center. Nyillan brought the crafts back to the United States, and members of our team have been selling them at different events. Currently over $1,000 has been made from the $500 contribution. (Just to give you an idea of the potential this school has to become self-sustaining.)
  3. – Along with the crafts Nyillan brought back, she also brought back a bag of gifts for me from the same girl, Fatou, who made me a shirt and presented it to me on our last day in Barra Village. The gifts range from beautiful bags, napkins, handkerchiefs, water bottle holders, and a wrap skirt. Collectively the gifts are worth well over $100 if we were to sell them. I can’t express how amazing it is to have made such an impact on even one persons life, that they would spend so many hours making such beautiful gifts for me. It’s really heart warming, and while I already knew that this project would have such a large effect on my life, this nicely reiterates that.
  4. – I presented a rough cut of the documentary in early May to a select group of faculty members. They provided me with excellent feedback to help improve the film and strengthen the message. We’re still planning on having the premier in mid to late September, so be on the look out for an announcement. The event WILL be free and open to the public and there will be the opportunity to purchase the film, the sound track, the children’s songs, and possibly some hand made items directly from the school. And remember, 100% of the proceeds go directly to Sajuka.
  5. – Sorry I’ve been away so long. Things have been crazy lately. I’m hoping to post some pictures of the gifts that Fatou made for me, just to give you a general idea of the potential of the skills center of the school. And keep in mind all of this is made BY HAND and without electricity, and are, essentially, one of a kind items. Impressive, especially when you consider how most everything we buy these days is mass-produced on machines. Think about it.

Come Back Soon!

College students bring aid to African school

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


LONGMEADOW Bay Path College junior Jessica Toner never realized how much she appreciated a hot shower until she didn’t have one for two weeks.

“It’s definitely one of the things I take for granted living in this country,” she said.

Toner along with fellow Bay Path College student Kelly MacIntyre, graduate student Nyillan Fye and English and Communications professor John Jarvis spent two weeks in Gambia, Africa, gathering information and footage for a needs assessment and a documentary film on students in Barra, Gambia.

The college has been working with the Sajuka Community School in Barra for two years, even funding the tuition payments for 10 girls who now attend the African school. Fye, a native of the country, is working with Jarvis to make the school financially independent.

This year the group’s goal is to see what the school will

need to become self-sufficient, Jarvis said.

“The key to this will be the skills center which allows teens to apprentice with local artisans to create things that can be sold,” he said.

MacIntyre’s documentary, which will be shown at the college on Sept. 29, will serve as a tool to garner support for the project. She spent several days following a young student at the school as she went through her day.

“I filmed her doing everything from getting a bath ready in the morning to attending school and then helping her family after school,” she said. “It’s amazing to see how much harder things are for them, even the simplest things like taking a shower.”

Both students were surprised by the contrasting beauty and despair in the county.

// //

“It is a beautiful country, but Barra is surrounded by trash and the roads are awful,” Toner said. “Most of the students live right on the beach, which sounds beautiful, but the beach is basically used as a dumping ground for trash.”

Toner is considering getting a group together to clean up the area, especially around the school. However, during this trip Toner focused on the needs of the school.

“What they really need are projectors and textbooks,” she said. “Right now they barely have books for the teachers and none of the students have their own books,” she said.

Also because there is no projector teachers spend most of the class time transcribing textbook information on the board.

“By the time they are done doing that the class is over,” she said. “The teachers are passionate about their work and they really want students to learn, but they just don’t have the necessary equipment to do it properly.”

Many of the students go to school, but also have to work at the market until it gets dark to help support their families, Toner said. The school has about 200 students from nursery to middle school. High school students attend a school in the capital which can be a trip of several hours.

The school also has the skills center which Jarvis hopes to expand and modernize.

“They make beautiful things with cloth and wood, things that would be valuable to customers around the world if they could just get connected to the Web,” he said.

Jarvis hopes that MacIntyre’s documentary can be used to collect seed money, which will be used to purchase a computer with Internet access and other equipment for the center.

“The people there are so kind and welcoming and they are such hard workers,” he said. “Our hope is that they can start to depend on themselves and be successful even if we are not always around to help them.”