Gabriella Piconi ’16, who plans to attend Trinity College Dublin next year, recently completed her second Global Service Program trip to Ethiopia, in which TASIS students work closely with Nuovo Fiore Ethiopia, a non-profit organization that aids and encourages the education of elementary-aged young boys and girls in East Africa. Below is her beautiful reflection on this year’s trip, which was led by Dr. Chris Love (High School English Teacher), Alexi Love (Pilates Instructor), and Jaclyn Campenni (Learning Resource Faculty).
By Gabriella Piconi ’16
From Monday, March 28, to Friday, April 1, we traveled to Nuovo Fiore Auxilium School, Addis Ababa. When we got off the plane in Ethiopia and drove to the school, we were greeted with a welcome ceremony in which the students handed each of us a yellow rose, signifying friendship. Then we immediately started teaching classes. It was surreal, like going home again. Each morning, we had breakfast with the Sisters at our residence hall in the Auxilium compound next to the school. From morning to early afternoon, we led a variety of educational activities for the K–5 students at the Auxilium School. In the late afternoons, we stayed in the compound, enjoying sports with the children and resting. One afternoon after classes, we hiked with some of the students and village kids through their villages, led by Binyum, a third grader. We took the walk some students had to take every morning, often very early. Afterwards, when the time came to say goodbye until the morning, I was surprised, perhaps wrongly, about how easy it was for Binyum to say goodbye, and disturbed at how lightly he took, or, was accustomed to take, to being abandoned. A line of TS Eliot’s came to mind then: “And should I have the right to smile?”
In the evenings, after another group dinner, we met together to reflect on the day and plan our classes for the following day. On Friday afternoon, there was a beautiful goodbye ceremony with a farewell song or dance from some of the grades. They presented us with gratitude and gifts and then we sat for a coffee ceremony with the teachers and nuns. Having to say goodbye was the hardest part, and even though I knew that 1) I had to do it, and 2) what it would be like, the inevitable reality of us leaving them didn't make sense. I felt a little like the Tin Man, then, because all I could think was, I know I have a heart because I can feel it breaking.
TASIS Global Service Program
The Global Service Program was envisioned by Jan Opsahl ’68, who became the first international student at TASIS when he came from Norway in 1965. The pioneering program was launched in 2013 with major support from a most generous donation from Mr. Opsahl and his family to set up the Global Service Trust. This Trust, along with support from the TASIS Foundation, make this incredible, life-changing experience for our students possible.
The Global Service Program transforms lives by providing every High School student a unique opportunity to connect across borders through comprehensive experiences that build empathy and encourage personal responsibility. Participation in the program—which is designed to awaken students to humanitarian needs, inspire them to build enduring, mutually beneficial relationships, and lead them toward a life of active citizenship and committed service—is a graduation requirement.